If we were to receive all the laws for shabbos at Sinai why then is it the Mishkan to where we direct our attention when it comes to classifying all the things we cannot do on Shabbos? Wasn't the mishkan an atonement for the golden calf? Wasn't the concept of shabbos conceived after hashem created the world? Were Jews not also keeping Shabbos prior to receiving the Torah at Har Sinai?

So, why the emphasis on the mishkan in this sense? Does this also imply that the laws of shabbos were more solidified after the instructions were given for the mishkan?

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    First, it must be noted that the 39 categories of labor forbidden on Shabbath are not derived from the service in the Mishkan, but from the construction of the Mishkan. I hope my edit makes that clear.
    – Seth J
    May 13, 2013 at 15:17
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    @SethJ: There are two opinions. Some say construction, some say service.
    – Menachem
    May 13, 2013 at 15:35
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    of interest: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/11557/603
    – Menachem
    May 13, 2013 at 15:35
  • @Menachem what makes that interesting is it shows that Milachah was defined at Har Sinai, which makes more sense, since it does not make perfect sense to me that we have two commandments on the luchos, involving shabbos, yet we seem to get our instructions about HOW to keep shabbos -when- we receive instructions about the mishkan -which- comes to us to atone for a the golden calf. I see the connections to the mishkan but to say the definition of the milachos would COME from the mishkan would be faulty in logic. May 14, 2013 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


I think I understand your question to be leaning more towards philosophy, however the question works in a broader sense as well, so I'll answer the basic question as worded in the heading, "Why are Melochos based on the construction of the Mishkan?"

The simplest answer to this question is that the Mishkan needed to be constructed almost entirely from scratch, making it a perfect model of creating something for the purest motivations, which is nonetheless prohibited on Shabbath. When the Torah tells us, in a nutshell, "Build my tabernacle to all its specifications, but make sure nobody violates the sabbath," we understand that construction of the Mishkan itself, despite its heavenly goal, is prohibited on Shabbath because of the types of creative labor that are involved. Essentially we read the command as, "Build my tabernacle, but not on Shabbath." Then our Mesorah tells us specifically which activities were done that are prohibited, outlining for us what we may not do on any given Shabbath.

See more here: "The Relationship between Shabbat and the Construction of the Mishkan" by Rabbi Michael Rosensweig (Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University)

  • Good answer, But I was wondering also what might have been IF the golden calf incident had not occurred -what then? . I wonder IF the incidents were intended to play out this way or not -since I heard an interpretation that Adam harishon in some way was intended to err. May 13, 2013 at 21:39
  • @seekingclarity, we might never have been born; or maybe we would have been; see Mas. 'Avodah Zarah 5a.
    – Seth J
    May 13, 2013 at 21:42

I once heard a tape by Rabbi Uziel Milvsky of ohr somayach entitle "the Sabbath". There he brings down that there is holiness in space (temple) and there is holiness in time (shabbat). The Sabbath is the temple in time. This is why there is so much parallels between the two. He didn't get into it much more than that, because it is probably heavily mystical as to the mechanics of a "temple in time".


I would like to build off of SethJ's answer. The idea is not that the milachas are based on the construction of the Mishkan. Rather, the construction of the mishkan is how we know what the milachas are. What is forbidden on Shabbat is constructive labor (independent of anything having to do with the Mishkan).

Now, to answer your question about the golden calf. You are right that we say that the Mishkan has something to do with the egel. If we hadn't done the egel hazahav, perhaps we would not have had a Mishkan. That would not mean that we wouldn't have the milachas of Shabbos, though. It would just mean that we would need a different example to teach us which actions are tantamount to constructive labor.

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