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Dvar for Vayakhel/Pekudei (Exodus 35:1-40:38)

One of this week’s Parshiot, Vayakhel, tells of Moshe gathering the entire Jewish community and begins with instructions for not working on Shabbat (35:1-2). The very next Passuk (verse) strangely specifies that fire should not be kindled in dwellings on Shabbat (35:3), and moves on to the next topic. Why would the Torah single out only one type of work?

Recent world events provide an interesting perspective that could help us understand this Passuk. When a virus spreads, sometimes the carriers themselves may be asymptomatic, unwittingly spreading the virus to others. The same can be true of fire – while it may not do damage to our property, there is a chance that it spreads beyond our control and hurts others. The Torah’s instructions specifically included the words “community” and “in dwellings,” possibly to highlight that we should be concerned for our community as much as we should be concerned for ourselves. This example isn’t just an extension of the commandment to keep Shabbos; it’s the very example the Torah used to highlight the need for thinking of each other in every way.