וַיָּבאוּ הָֽאֲנָשִׁים עַל־הַנָּשִׁים
The men came with the women.
It is interesting to note the enthusiasm with which the people built the Mishkan. At no time during the forty years in the desert did any of the Children of Israel violate the sanctity of the Mishkan. Yet, after only one week in the desert, the Sabbath was violated by a wood-chopper (Num. 15:32), and the Sabbath has not been observed perfectly by the entire nation since.
As noted in the beginning of this parashah, at the very conclusion of His command to Moses regarding the Mishkan, God appends a warning regarding keeping Shabbos. Beis Halevi explains that there are basic necessities to maintain physical life, and there are luxuries which are greatly enjoyed but do not constitute necessities. In our spiritual lives, too, there are mitzvos which are basic to our existence as Jews, and there are other mitzvos which, although beautiful, we can survive without as a people if necessary.
Knesses Yisrael have survived for 1,900 years without a Temple, sometimes very well. Without the Beis Hamikdash we produced Tana’im, the Mishnah was written, the Gemara followed. Without the Beis Hamikdash we had the Gaonic period, Rishonim, mekubbalim, chassidic leaders. Of course, Jews pined for the rebuilding of the Temple. Obviously, the presence of prophets and a Beis Hamikdash widens one’s religious horizons. Yet we can survive without these. On the other hand, a Klal Yisrael without Shabbos cannot exist. Shabbos to the soul is like water and bread to the body.
If a person becomes mentally deranged, he no longer differentiates between necessities and luxury. He will neglect his body, will not eat, and will not protect himself from the cold. In the same way, when the nation was of sound spiritual foundation, it was unnecessary to include a warning about Shabbos, and therefore the command to build the Mishkan in Parashas Terumah did not include this warning. However, after the Jews worshiped the Golden Calf, they experienced a spiritual-mental deterioration. No longer could they differentiate absolute necessity from luxury. It therefore became necessary for God to warn them about mitzvah priorities: God must now emphasize that Shabbos supersedes the Mishkan.
If one reads the Shabbos Shuva derashos that were delivered to the Jews in Europe over the last few centuries, they never contained warnings to keep Shabbos, kashrus, to wear tefillin, or to give children a Jewish education. Such exhortations were unnecessary, as the people recognized that their very existence depended upon these fundamentals. Instead, these derashos contained warnings, for example, about how one should not spend excessive time in front of mirrors, being overly concerned about one’s appearance, or how one should not dress too luxuriously.
Only in this generation, with our skewed priorities, are exhortations regarding basic spiritual necessities necessary. Reciting Kaddish over a deceased parent, a relatively minor custom, is considered more important than Shabbos and Jewish education. Today, Jews will keep their businesses open on Shabbos for an extra few dollars of income, yet at the same time give tens of thousands of dollars to build lavish temples. (Moriah, 1958)