In this week’s Sidrah, Parashat VaYakheil, Moshe gathers Bnei Yisrael to tell them about various Mitzvot. It seems that Moshe’s main purpose for the assembly is to teach them the laws of building the Mishkan and to lay out many of the details related to them. Why, then, does the Moshe begin his speech by telling them about Shabbat? The Torah writes at the very beginning of the Parashah, “Sheishet Yamim Tei’aseh Melachah UVaYom HaShevi’i Yihyeh Lachem Kodesh Shabbat Shabbaton LaShem Kol HaOseh Vo Melachah Yumat. Lo Teva’aru Eish BeChol Moshevoteichem BeYom HaShabbat,” “On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death. You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day” (Shemot 35:2-3). This Pasuk seems to be out of place. Why start off a speech that will primarily deal with laws of the Mishkan by delineating a few Halachot about Shabbat?
Our Rabbis derive important Halachot from both this puzzling juxtaposition and an equally puzzling juxtaposition found later in the Torah in Sefer VaYikra (26:2). The 39 Melachot of Shabbat are based upon this very connection between the Mishkan and Shabbat - any work that was done in the Mishkan cannot be done on Shabbat.
While this technical connection is of obvious import, I think there is an even deeper message that links Shabbat with the Mishkan. In order to build a place for Hashem to rest and dwell in, we must first recognize and give testimony to His omnipresence by resting from all creativity on the seventh day. This association of Mishkan and Shabbat can teach us a great lesson. While we must always try to advance our relationship with Hashem, we must first make sure that our bond with Him is based on the fundamental truth and our service to Him. Only after we give Hashem reason to rest amongst our people will He give us reason to share a day of rest with Him.