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    38 labours & the 39th – Vayakhel

    Vayakhel begins with Moses telling the people that there are types of labour which God had forbidden on Shabbat.

    They derive from the types of work that were necessary in the construction of the tabernacle.

    By tradition there were 39 categories. The first 38 deal with creative activities which remind us of God’s work in creating the world. These 38 represent change from one substance to another. They represent what man does for himself and for his own benefit.

    The 39th, dealing with carrying, is different. It does not speak so much about changing but moving. Its theme is not so much what you do for yourself but what you do for society. The life of a community depends on how people interact and how they give and take.

    The Talmud reports that King Solomon and his advisers decided that the Sabbath required human beings to rest from the frantic pace of moving things out of one’s house to the public domain and vice-versa.

    Within the house members of the family could move things from place to place, for example from the larder to the kitchen and from the kitchen to the dining room.

    Only if there was an eruv could the wider context be narrowed so that the whole of a given area could be regarded as one entity and the people involved could be thought of as one family.

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