When beginning to read this week's parsha, one immediately wonders why Moshe needed to precede the command to build the Mishkan with the prohibition to do work on Shabbos. Rashi quotes the well-known Mechilta that this was in order to let the Jewish People know that Shabbos takes precedence over construction of the Mishkan. This begs to be understood, for in Parshas Ki Sisa we find this law already conveyed. Why the need to repeat it here?
To answer, we need to focus on another point of interest. Very rarely do we find the passuk referring to the Jewish Nation as "Adas B'nei Yisroel," "Congregation of the Children of Israel," usually only as "B'nei Yisroel," "Children of Israel." What is unique about this parsha? The Nesivos Shalom writes that by rearranging the letters of the word "Adas" you get the word "Da'as," knowledge. Our sages teach us in Tractate Sota 3a, that a person only sins as a result of a foolish spirit that has entered him. Losing one's ability to think is the precursor to sin. Rashi tell us that the events of this week's parsha take place immediately after Yom Kippur when Moshe brought down the second Luchos. The Jewish People at that point were fragmented as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf. They had "lost" their minds to sin, and Moshe was now tasked with rectifying that. To accomplish this mission Moshe introduced the Jewish People to the concept of Mishkan, but first he had to start with the prohibition to work on Shabbos. Why?
The Vilna Gaon, in Aderes Eliyahu, writes that G-d renews creation each day, and the recreation of Shabbos is prepared on Erev Shabbos. Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner explains the words of The Gaon with one of the laws of Shabbos.
There is a prohibition to carry an item of significance from a private domain to a public domain, or vice versa. However if one were to use an object of significance to carry an item that is insignificant (e.g. a pitcher to carry a piece of bread smaller then a bite), one will have not transgressed Shabbos. This is because the significant item is nullified by its purpose to carry the insignificant object. What we see is that what is considered worthy depends on the evaluation of mankind. That ability represents the "da'as," the ability to think, unique to man.
Rabbi Hutner then informs us that this singular law speaks to a broader concept of Shabbos. The "six days of work" are only prelude to Shabbos. Shabbos brings back into focus man's purpose in this world. Therefore although the world continues renew on Shabbos physically, human intellect is now focused on the loftier spiritual role of Shabbos. G-d prepared this by creating intelligent man right before Shabbos, thus allowing the world of secondary purpose, by man's understanding, to function on a day with different priorities. This is similar to the pitcher carrying the insignificant piece of bread.
"Ki os hi beini uveineichem la'da'as ki Ani Hashem mikadishchem." The verse clearly states that Shabbos is the symbol (of our relationship with G-d) to know that Hashem is the One who sanctifies us. Shabbos with its laws and rules, gives the Jewish people the time to reflect and think about our priorities in this world. Guard the Shabbos because it guards us from making unthinkable mistakes.
Once Moshe brought back the Jewish People's ability to think, he was now able to give the laws of constructing the Mishkan. This required tremendous wisdom, as reiterated so often in this week's parsha, that was now possible because of Shabbos. May we remain properly focused.