In this week’s Torah portion, Moses assembles the Israelites and reminds them of the commandment to observe Shabbat as a day of rest. He also instructs them not to kindle light on Shabbat. Moses then reviews God’s instructions concerning the building of the Tabernacle and calls upon the people to bring gifts to be used in its construction. When Moses sees that the work is complete, he blesses the people of Israel. Then God tells Moses to erect the Tabernacle on the first day of the first month and to place in it all of its specially crafted furnishings. Moses then anoints Aaron and his four sons to be priests as God commanded him.
When Moses has finished the work, the cloud of God covers the Tabernacle and the presence of God fills it. When the cloud is lifted from the Tabernacle, it is a signal to the Israelites to break camp and begin travel. Throughout the journeys of the Israelites, a cloud of the Lord is present by day and a fire by night.
The placement of the prohibition of work on Shabbat immediately before the description of the building of the Tabernacle led the Rabbis to understand “work” – “milacha” to mean any activity that was needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. The Mishnah (Shabbat 7:2) lists thirty-nine main categories of work – “avot” and there are many other kinds of work which are outgrowths of these main thirty-nine that are also forbidden. These latter are called toledot – offspring. For example: sowing is in the avot category, therefore, watering plants is considered in the toledot class.