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You shall make the beams of the mishkan of shittim wood, standing erect. (Shemos 26:15)
On the day of Shabbos we are forbidden to work. To be precise, there are thirty-nine categories of forbidden labor that one may not perform. The Gemarah derives these thirty-nine categories of labor from the construction of the mishkan. Any labor that was needed for the construction of the mishkan may not be done on Shabbos.
The Gemara relates that on Shabbos we are forbidden to write because each keresh was inscribed with a letter. These letters kept track of the position and sequence of each of the forty-eight kerashim. The commentators explain that although most of the kerashim were identical and could have been easily interchanged when the mishkan was taken apart and reassembled, it was not done. This is because it was an honor for a keresh to be close to the location of the aron. If the first time the mishkan was erected a keresh was placed near the aron and upon later being reassembled was moved further away from the aron, this would slight the honor of that specific keresh. This is analogous to a person who had a distinguished front row seat at an important function and was demoted to a back row seat at the next event.
It if fascinating to note that the whole concept and purpose of writing in the mishkan was for preserving the dignity and honor of the kerashim.
Chazal tell us that the thirty-nine categories or labor that are forbidden on Shabbos are not just significant with regard to Shabbos; they represent the complete concept of constructive labor that Hashem has created in this world for us to use to serve Him.
The significance of the Torah revealing the concept of writing in the framework of honor instructs us to use the gift and talent of writing to give honor and preserve the dignity of the object we write about.
This idea is a strong rebuke to those gifted journalists and writers who thrive on writing articles that put to shame people or institutions just for the sake of gossip. To use the gift of writing to bring out the shortcomings of another does not only violate many severe Jewish laws, it abuses the power and purpose of the written word. Writing was given to honor not to shame.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5765/2005