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In the reading of Ki Tissa (Shemot 30:17 - 31:11) we find mentioning of laws and rules related to the Mishkan followed by a mentioning of Shabbat (31:12-17).

In the beginning of the reading of Vaykhel, the order is reversed. Shabbat is mentioned first in Shemot 35:1-3 followed by the Mishkan starting in verse 4.

Why is the order reversed in Vayakhel?

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Sifsei Chachamim (s.k. 4) indeed seems to answer your question.

His question is that perhaps it's the opposite - it wrote it twice to say that it's the Mishkan that overrides Shabbos! He answers that whatever comes first is what is primary. In Vayakhel, where it comes first, it's to teach that Shabbos comes before Mishkan. In Ki Sisa, where HaShem told Moshe "but observe my Shabbasos," we darshen that it's to exclude the Mishkan. Moshe understood the derashah and thus swapped the parshios when he told it over to Klal Yisrael.

1

As noted in Jay's answer, Rashi on 35:2 comments that shabbat is placed first in Vayakhel to teach that shabbat takes precedence over building the mishkan.

However, we then have to ask explain why the order is different in Ki Tissa. The Meshech Chochmah (R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk) asks this question.

He offers an answer (more b'derech drush in my opinion) by noting what took place between these two occurrences of the juxtaposition of shabbat and the mishkan i.e. the episode of the Golden Calf.

The significance of this is explained as follows:

R. Meir Simcha points out that the avodah (service) in the mishkan was carried out on shabbat, despite involving melachot. He explains that this is because, whilst shabbat affirms the belief in the existence of Hashem as the Creator of the universe, the avodah demonstrates the more profound fact of His continued involvement in the world that He created.

This being the case, why in fact could they not build the mishkan on shabbat? R. Meir Simchah explains that only the amplification of a pre-existing reality of Hashem’s Presence in this world, takes precedence over shabbat.

Before the mishkan was built, there was no Divine Presence for them to extend, and therefore they couldn’t build the mishkan on shabbat. Only once the mishkan was completed, and the Divine Presence was there manifest, were they allowed to magnify that through the service there, even on shabbat.

Now, we can understand that, before the sin of the Golden Calf, they would actually have been able to build the mishkan on shabbat.

Before the Golden Calf, Hashem had promised that the Children of Israel themselves would be a manifestation of the Divine Presence, even without a mishkan. (בכל מקום אשר אזכיר את שמי אבוא אליך וברכתיך).

Since the mishkan would only be expanding upon the Divine Presence already present upon the Children of Israel, building it could take place on shabbat, in the same way that after the Golden Calf, the avodah, which serves to amplify the Divine Presence present in the mishkan, could be performed on shabbat.

After the sin of the Golden Calf, the Divine Presence left the Children of Israel, and they needed to first build the mishkan to experience the Divine Presence yet again. This was not permitted on shabbat.

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Rashi (35:2, quoting the Mechilta) writes that the order is reversed here with Shabbos being placed first to teach that the work of the Mishkan doesn't override the laws of Shabbos.

  • That doesn't answer my question, really. Rash"i explains why the two topics are next to each other. I know that reason. I'm asking for a contrast of their positioning. Why in one case it is before and in the other it is after. If my question is unclear, please suggest how I can clarify it to others. – DanF Mar 24 '17 at 14:48
  • @DanF No, Rashi is not explaining why they're next to each other, he's explaining why Shabbos is mentioned first as opposed to the previous order and is addressing your question exactly - this law is learned from the order, not merely from the fact that they're next to each other. – Jay Mar 24 '17 at 14:53
  • Suggestion? I just viewed Sifsei Chachamim's explanation, but I have a bit of trouble understanding his main point. If you can excerpt & translate some part of it, that might improve the answer. – DanF Mar 24 '17 at 14:58

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