In this week’s reading, Moshe gathers the entire nation to instruct them in the building of the Mishkan, the Sanctuary. He says, “these are the things which G-d has Commanded, for you to do them.” [Ex. 35:1] And then he immediately talks about not doing work, on the Sabbath, before talking about the gifts and the building of the Sanctuary. What’s going on here? Why the “detour” into the Sabbath before talking about the work?
The message is obvious: even building the Sanctuary doesn’t override the Sabbath. This same idea is encapsulated later on in the verse, “You shall keep My Sabbaths, and revere My Sanctuary; I am HaShem” [Lev. 19:30].
Imagine that we were there at the time. Imagine that we were being told to build a Sanctuary for G-d, a global center for the Divine Presence. What could possibly be more important? The Sanctuary welcomed the Divine Presence, encouraged the new Jewish nation, and spread the knowledge of G-d around the world. If it took two weeks to do the work, why stop in middle, when it was after all a holy endeavor? Isn’t it obvious that building this key institution should take priority over the Sabbath?
But it didn’t. Because whatever our opinions, the Divine calculation was different. And the Torah requires that we follow G-d’s Rules even when we, with our own limited capacities, feel differently.
First, keep the Sabbath. Then you can build a Sanctuary, and know it will stand the test of time.