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The Music of Halacha: A Well Constructed Life: Introduction

Now that I am the ultimate handyman (See Disguises) with duct tape and WD-40, I decided to review the Shabbat laws of Constructing and Demolishing. My first thoughts were to look back to the construction of the Mishkan. After all, it is from there that we derive the 39 categories of Creative Work of Shabbat.

The Mishkan was not the first construction project. The Jews built treasure cities for Pharaoh. Jacob built Succot. The Tower of Babel was a major international construction project. Abraham set up tents and built altars.  Noah made the Ark. Cain erected the first cities.

The very first construction project was the creation, and the Mishkan is pictured as an Olam Katan A Creation in Miniature.

The first specific mention of building is the creation of Eve: So the God the Lord caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh.  Then God the Lord built a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:21-23)

The most logical way to begin our study of the laws of Boneh – building – is by comparing its structure (pun intended) to the building of Eve.

The process of Boneh in the Mishkan actually accomplished two separate tasks:

1. Walls and a roof or tent, were formed, creating a shelter.
2. Separate components, planks, bars, rings and sockets, were assembled and combined to form one unified structure.

Many Halachic authorities understand the Rambam to hold that both tasks are necessary in order to violate the Biblical prohibition of building on Shabbat. (Even HaEzel, Maimonides, Yad Hachazakah, Laws of Shabbat 10:17) We hope to examine Maimonides’ opinion in a later essay.

It is difficult to see any relationship between the ‘construction’ of Eve and the laws of Boneh. We do not find any mention of shelter in the text, nor do we read of any assembly of parts. The verse teaches that God took one ‘part’ of Adam and built the woman from that one part.

To be continued…

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