From the Rebbe’s explanations:
– Generally, the portions of “Vayakhel” and “Pekudei” are read together on the same Shabbat. As explained on previous occasions, when two parshiyos are combined, they form a single entity. Thus, every element of the Torah reading has a combined message – “Vayakhel-Pekudei”.
Although the sequence of the two Torah portions indicates that “Vayakhel” is a preparation for “Pekudei”, “Vayakhel” represents an independent service in its own right. This concept receives greater emphasis this year, when “Vayakhel” is read and studied as a separate chapter.
The message of “Vayakhel” applies to all the Jewish people and alludes to their ability to gather together and form a single collective entity in the spirit of the mitzvah “Love your fellow man as yourself.”
I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself. (Preface to the morning prayer, Siddur Tehilat Hashem, according to the Arizal’s version, as edited by the Alter Rebbe. Based on the Torah commandment in Book of Vayikra, 19:18).
This is possible, because we all share a single essence – the divine soul which is “truly a part of haShem above” (Tanya, chapter 2). Moreover, the Alter Rebbe placed the above mentioned declaration at the very beginning of the prayer service, making it the foundation of one’s daily activities.
This utterance is obviously an expression of love and unity between Jews. In simple terms, this commandment means that when a person sees another Jew, he should try to unite with him, for in truth they share a fundamental commonalty. This applies, not only to the Jews in one’s immediate community, but to all Jews, even those far removed, even those in a distant corner of the world.
Needless to say, the manner in which these feelings of unity are expressed will differ. But the feelings of oneness are universal in nature.
Even when the distance is also spiritual in nature (for example, when two people do not share the same level of observance), one should focus on the connection and not on the differences. In regard to one’s personal conduct, one must emphasize two modes of serving G‑d — striving both to, “Turn away from evil and do good.” When, however, one relates to another individual, one must channel one’s energies solely in the path of “Do good…”
The bedrock of our entire day
In this context, we can understand why upon waking we start our day with the declaration “Modeh Ani”.
I thank you, living and enduring King, for You have graciously returned my soul within me. Great is your faithfulness.
We say this even before we are ready to begin the morning prayer and declare “I hereby take upon myself…”. We say “Modeh Ani” as soon as we arise from sleep.
What is the core of this declaration? That a person gathers together his entire being and devotes it to G‑d.
Seemingly, before a person is able to say “Modeh Ani”, he should first consciously perceive G‑d’s presence. This in turn would appear to require that he contemplate the world around him until he realises how “the entire earth is filled with His glory.” Only then, would he be able to make an all-encompassing commitment to haShem. We, however, do not need such preparation, for our connection with the Creator is intrinsic and constant, shaping our thinking processes even when we sleep…
In fact, a person’s bond with G‑d may be even greater when he sleeps than when he is awake, for then his consciousness does not control his thoughts. In its absence, his essence can shine through. And the essence of every soul is connected with G‑d at all times.
A Jew’s existence is kevua, “fixed and permanent.” And our Sages teach that the existence of an entity which is kevua cannot be nullified even when mixed together with a quantity one thousand times greater than itself.
Moreover, the Hebrew word for one thousand elef (אלך) also relates to one of the terms used to describe G‑d, Alufo (אלופו) shel olam, “L‑rd of the world.” A Jew’s existence cannot be nullified even in the face of Alufo shel olam. For Alufo shel olam refers to G‑d as He descends and limits Himself in order to allow for the possibility of worldly existence. A Jew, however, is one with G‑d at a level which transcends worldly existence entirely.
… When a person arises from sleep and feels his own existence, he gives himself over to G‑d with thankful acknowledgement. And this enables him to perceive how “great is Your faithfulness,” i.e., how every entity in the world reflects G‑d’s gracious kindness. In this manner, he is able to collect every entity in the world at large under the all-encompassing mission of G‑d’s service.
That special moment of “Modeh Ani”
… Our day begins with gathering together the different aspects of our own being. Afterwards, we gather together with the entire Jewish people, and then, gather together every element of the world. And we show how their entire existence is intended to carry out G‑d’s will.
In this manner, every moment of our life should be similar to the one in which we “wake up from sleep,” and say “Modeh Ani”. And then the entire day is healthy in both a spiritual and a material sense…
And this will lead us to the ultimate process of ingathering, the ingathering of the dispersed Jewish people. G‑d will “sound the great shofar… and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land.”
“… a great company [all the Jews of the present generation and all those of the previous generation] shall they return there” (Jeremiah, 31:7).
And this will happen in the very near future. And then we will proceed “with our youth and with our elders… with our sons and with our daughters” to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Third (and threefold) Beis HaMikdash. May this take place in the immediate future.
Excerpts from the Rebbe’s talk on Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel 25th Day of Adar I, 5752 (1992). Free translation.