The Mishkan and Shabbat have a lot in common. We learn all the 39 forbidden categories of “work” (things that are not to be done) on Shabbat from the 39 kinds of labor that were done in order to erect the Mishkan. We are taught about Shabbat also in Parashat Ki Tisa, right after Teruma and Tetzaveh; Teruma and Tetzaveh discusses the making of the Mishkan and the garments of the Kohanim worn during their service there. Then, we find in Parashat Vayakhel beforethe Torah relays the actual building of the Mishkan, Shabbat is mentioned once again. The Beit Halevi asks why the order is reversed. First, the Mishkan is mentioned, and then, Shabbat – but in Vayakhel, first Shabbat is mentioned, and then, the Mishkan. What is the reason for the switch?
The Mitzvah of Shabbat and the Mitzvah of building the Mishkan were both given to the Jewish Nation as their “wedding present” upon becoming G-d’s nation. The Mitzvah of Shabbat is a Mitzvah that we need as the Jewish Nation, a mitzvah that we have taken with us through all the exiles. The Jewish Nation needs the Shabbat, and it loses its identity without it. In contrast, the Mitzvah of the Mishkan and the sacrifices are mitzvoth which express the love in our relationship with G-d and show that He is among us. This is not something that is crucial for the nation’s survival. We do not need it as much as we want it. We could say that the Mishkan, lehavdil, was like the fancy watch that the rich father in law either has to or wants to buy for his son-in-law to be.
Before the sin of the golden calf, G-d wanted to give the laws of the Mishkan first, for this was the glory of the Jewish nation, and the present that openly displayed G-d’s love. However, after the sin, G-d gave us the Mishkan only as the present for becoming his nation, but not with the same enthusiasm. The love and excitement had calmed down a little. G-d first gave us the Shabbat – something that we need, and then the Mishkan, something that is an extra. So, said the Beit Halevi.
This illustrates something that we can notice within ourselves. When we would like to express our love to spouses or to children, it makes a big difference if the present we give is something special, or something from the regular shopping list! An item given out of the perception of a need gives a far weaker message than one perceived as being given solely for the other person’s enjoyment. If a husband buys something out of the usual from the supermarket, something not on the basic list, like a chocolate bar, and leaves it in the kitchen for his wife as a present, she will appreciate that. She will not appreciate it in the same way if he puts the milk or margarine down on the table and says – “I thought about you in the supermarket, dear”. This is because the chocolate is an extra, a want, and the milk and margarine are basic needs.
It is the same with our relationship with G-d. It is more difficult for us, to feel gratitude to G-d for things that we need, like air and sunshine, than it is to feel gratitude to G-d for winning the Lotto. Naturally, we appreciate the fulfillment of our desires more than we appreciate the fulfillment of our needs, although we should certainly be appreciative of both. Needs aren’t noticed; the wants and extras are. Receiving a “need” is never like receiving a “want”.
Distinguishing between existential needs and “extras”, and the different feelings evoked by each type of “gift”, can shed much light on parent – child relationships. A healthy family is one where children are not brought up feeling that they had a utilitarian, existential need for their parents. The bond between children and their parents in such families greatly surpasses that in the families where the parents feel and support the belief that their children are not capable of managing on their own. In the healthier relationships, the children are willing to do anything and everything to take care of their parents when their parents get older, for the relationship was built on wanting such relationship as opposed to merely needing it. This relationship with the parent is perceived as a desire, and not as a necessity.
This difference between need and want is a major factor affecting our enthusiasm for everything we do. When we come to pray with a feeling that we want to pray, our prayer is different from a prayer recited because we feel we have to pray, or one recited by rote. There is a great difference between our thanking Him because we feel obligated to do so – and between thanking Him because we really want to. That is thanks on an entirely different level. All it is is a change of perspective. We should be coming to prayer, either way. We should be respecting and loving our parents, either way. The difference is just in the enthusiasm. And the enthusiasm is dependent on the way in which we perceive the “want”.
Imagine waking up in the morning and saying – O K. Today I am going to do only what I want to. And then, do everything that you are doing anyway. What a different life. That is actually the “real me”, anyway.