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Vayakhel-Pekudei


  • A Cover-Up of Biblical Proportions

    by Rabbi YY Jacobson

    The Truth, the Whole Truth and…

    Harry gets stopped by a police car. When the police officer gets to his car, Harry says, "What's the problem officer?"

    Officer: You were going at least 65 in a 50mph zone.

    Harry: No sir, I was going 50.

    Wife: Oh Harry, You were going 70.

    Harry gives his wife a dirty look.

    Officer: I will also give you a ticket for your broken brake light.

    Harry: Broken brake light? I didn't know about a broken brake light!

    Wife: Oh Harry, you've known about that brake light for months.

    Harry gives his wife a really dirty look.

    Officer: I am also going to book you for not wearing your seat belt.

    Harry: Oh, I just took it off when you were walking up to the car.

    Wife: Oh Harry, you never wear your seat belt.

    Harry turns to his wife and yells, "Shut your mouth!"

    Officer turns to the woman and says, "Madam, does your husband talk to you this way all the time?"

    Wife: "No, only when he's drunk…"

    Smooth or Problematic?

    In the Torah, the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)—culminated in the Torah portion of this week Vayakhel-Pekudei—is presented as a seamless flow of command, collection, and finally, construction. G-d commands Moses, Moses presents the people with the plans, the people respond over-enthusiastically, donating more than necessary (for the first and last time in Jewish history…), and all Moses has to do is tell them when to stop. The construction goes ahead according to plan, and in no time at all—six months in total (compare that with construction nowadays)—the Mishkan is up and ready to function.

    However, the student of Midrash—the Talmudic and Midrashic commentary to the Torah, transmitted orally throughout the generations till transcribed—makes aware of the “politics” behind the events. It was anything but smooth. The Midrash[1] tells us, shockingly, that there were those who suspected Moses of pocketing funds and they insolently demanded that Moses make an accounting for every ounce of every item. Moses conceded to their demands and humbly presented a detailed account of every “dollar” collected for the grandiose “building campaign.”

    The Midrash[2] also tells us that Moses actually forgot what he did with some of the silver, and the rumors began circulating… The Rabbi is driving a new BMW… Who paid for his cruise to the Bahamas… How did he manage to buy the 2 million dollar home for his daughte? How can he afford such a grandiose wedding?... Did you see his new kitchen?… Till Moses reminded himself that he used them for hooks on the pillars in the Tabernacle, and the Jews calmed down.

    There was another obstacle in the process. There were times—the Midrash tells us—when Moses struggled with understanding G-d’s directions, and G-d had to show him a detailed vision of what He wanted.[3] Once, during the formation of the Menorah, the sages relate, that too did not work. Moses completely gave up and G-d had to make the menorah Himself.

    Then the Sanctuary was completed much earlier than expected, and it had to remain idle for three months.[4]

    When the time came for the actual erection of the Mishkan, they again ran into a glitch: No-one could succeed in lifting the walls. Even collectively, it was impossible. Imagine the anti-climax, the fear that all was in vain. At the end, Moses miraculously lifted the beams alone.

    Yet all of these parts of the story are completely ignored in the biblical text itself. There are a few tantalizing hints, but overall, the story presented in the Torah is one of a holistic, pure, and ideal experience. No glitches, no politics, no accusations, no problems; a perfectly smooth ride.

    One wonders how do we reconcile the biblical and oral traditions? If the Midrashic traditions are presenting what happened, why are these details ignored in the biblical text? Is the Torah trying to brush over the disturbing truths? Is the Torah teaching us to repress uncomfortable facts; to ignore the real story, to make believe everything is “perfect” when in fact it’s far from it? And if so, why did the Rabbis in the Midrash “ruin the party” and “spill the beans”?

    Creation Cover-Ups

    This is not the only incident with this birthmark. We find this tendency twice more.

    The opening of Genesis records eloquently but concisely the facts of creation and it sounds like a pretty smooth sailing. “In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth…” Over the next six days, a universe is formed. The Talmud and the Midrash, however, tell us that even G-d ran into some seemingly unexpected delays and had to make some serious alterations. Each of the six days presented another challenge.

    For starters, the Midrash relates[5] that the attribute of Truth opposed creation, and G-d had to cast Truth away in order to create our universe. The sages also relate that G-d attempted to create the world with the quality of Judgment and was forced to retract to Mercy when He saw that the world could not handle it.[6]

    Then: He created light on the first day, hoping it would serve all of creation, but it was too great and luminescent and He deemed it useless (and had to stow it away as a reward for only the truly meritorious.)[7]

    Next: On the second day, he constructed heaven and separated higher waters from lower waters. According to the Midrash, the lower waters “revolted” and are still weeping about their rejection.[8]

    Next: On the third say, G-d designed trees with edible branches, but the trees disobeyed and produced only edible fruit.[9] Next: On the fourth day, the sun and the moon were created to be equals, the moon complained that “two kings cannot serve with one crown,” and hence the luminaries were altered as the moon was diminished.[10]

    Next: On Thursday, G-d created the fish, including the Leviathan. Then, realizing that if the Leviathan would procreate, it would spell the end of the planet, He killed the partner of the Leviathan.[11] Next: On Friday, when He wished to create man, the angels in heaven complained it would be a fatal mistake.[12] Indeed, shortly Adam and Eve were created they disobeyed G-d commandment to refrain from eating the Tree of knowledge.

    Yet, none of these “glitches” or “issues” are recorded explicitly in the actual biblical text. There it is as smooth a process as can be. How can we make sense of this shocking discrepancy?

    Even more perplexing is the fact that following the six days of creation, the Torah sums it all up with these stunning words:

    וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וְהִנֵּה טוֹב מְאֹד וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי.

    And G-d saw all that He made and it was very good.

    Very good? Really? Each day brought another headache, another melt down, and another crisis. What makes it so good?

    The Second Cover Up

    The Tanach describes glowingly and in minute detail the materials and construction and dedication of the First Temple built in Jerusalem without the hint of a glitch. Yet the Midrash adds the “problematic” information: During construction they hit a underground spring that threatened to flood the entire world;[13] at what was to be the climactic finale, the entering of the Ark to the Holy-of-Holies, the gates refused to open against all efforts.[14]

    According to the Midrash,[15] the entire dedication of the First Holy Temple was heavily delayed, because the night before King Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh and he slept in! It was his mother, Bat Sheba, who had to enter his bedroom, wake him up and chastise him for over sleeping on the day the Temple was to be dedicated.

    We are left with a striking enigma: The biblical text ignores the disturbing details. Then the rabbis come and share with us “the rest of the story.” Why?

    What Is Your Story?

    The answer is a crucial and profound lesson in life. The Torah is not trying to hide anything (a general pattern in Torah is it tolerates no cover ups, for anybody), and that is why the Sages felt comfortable exposing all of the details. Rather, the Torah is telling us that when one develops a proper perspective at his or her life, the problems do not always deserve to be mentioned. Not because they don’t exist, but because they don’t define the story of our lives, and therefore we can decide not to make them part of the story.

    In each of these three series of events—creation of the universe; construction of the Sanctuary and the Jerusalem Temple—something awesomely cataclysmic and earth-shattering is occurring. The infinite fuses with the finite; the impossible becomes possible, Man meets G-d and G-d meets Man. Out of cosmological emptiness and infinite Divinity creation develops; something-ness is made out of nothingness. G-d “squeezes” his omnipotence and omnipresence into a Mishkan (sanctuary) of a few square cubits, into a building of stone, into the heart of mortal man.

    This, then, is THE story; this is what happened. The bumps on the road, true as they may be, do not constitute the story, not because they didn’t happen, but because they are not what really happened; they should not, they cannot, obscure or even dampen the majestic power and beauty of the events.

    The Torah is teaching us how to live. Life is tough. The really important things are even tougher. To raise and support a family requires strength and courage. To build a good marriage is often taxing and difficult. To develop a relationship with G-d may be frustrating and lonely. Many things will not work out as we hoped they would. We face adversity, grief and loss. There are inevitably times of pain and heartbreak. There are quarrels and squabbles, moments of anger and setbacks. We must confront depression, illness, mental challenges, financial stress, and spiritual confusion.

    But we have the choice not to make them THE story of our lives. Sure, raising children is challenging, but when you gaze into the loving and trusting eyes of your child—that is THE miracle of existence, not the challenges leading toward that moment. When you connect to your spouse in a truly meaningful way, in a moment of real camaraderie and respect—that is the miracle of love playing itself out in your life. A bad day at work, hours of frustration in running your business, all melt away before the power of something so much greater, so much more real—your growth as a human being and your ability to help others with your money and your experience.

    We must look at our lives and ask what is the real story happening here? Is my life a story of hardship and struggle, or am I part of something incredible: I am building a home for G-d; I am constructing a fragment of heaven on planet earth; I am building a Jewish family, a loving marriage; I am helping people; I have the privilege of studying Torah, of spreading Torah, of doing a mitzvah, of inspiring others to light up the world. This is my story; this is my life. The other parts are of course also true, and deserve to be acknowledged as such, much as the Midrash acknowledges the other side of the story with creation, the Mishkan and the Temple. I must deal with every challenge and I must attempt to repair it, but I cannot allow it to become THE STORY.

    Here we have the origin of what is known today as Narrative Therapy many thousands of years ago. Each of us has the choice to define and reframe the story of our lives.

    When I wake up in the morning, I know that I have fifty things to do today, most of them are not fun; some are difficult and frustrating. But that is not THE story. The real story is captured in the words a Jew says the moment he or she opens his eyes: “Modeh ani lefanecha… shehechezarta bi nishmasi…” I am alive; G-d gave me back my soul for another day. Gevald! How awesome is that. I can now talk to G-d face to face, learn Torah, pray, share my heart and love with another human being, give charity, and become an ambassador for love, light and hope. I can embrace an aching soul, and touch a bleeding heart. Now that’s a life!

    Yes, I got to pay my bills, I have to deal with headaches, I need to catch the bank, I have to fix my garage, I need to call my son’s principle, I have to pick up the cleaners, I need to go to the dentist, and I need to pay back the loan. But do not let that become the story of your life. Stay focused on the real story – that at every moment you can construct a home for G-d in your corner of the world and bring redemption one step closer.[16]

    My Dear Student

    This week we commemorated the yartzeit to a former student, Nadiv Kehaty. Only 30 years old, a loving husband, and the father of four young children, his sudden passing left a family and a community in shock.

    Nadiv’s very presence made you feel how much possibility life contained, if it was filled with laughter, love and innocence. For Nadiv, all of life consisted of one story: An opportunity to laugh and make others laugh.

    I was a teacher, sitting at my desk in the lecture hall, presenting a class to 25 students. I was focused, immersed and serious. But then, suddenly, one student leaped into the classroom, jumped over the tables, and after listening to a few sentences, exclaimed with his genuine giggle and pure selflessness: “Rabbi, you are awesome; I love you!”

    This was Nadiv on a regular day. I’d melt away. It was clear that his soul was sent to this world to teach us how to love and laugh.

    I love you too, Nadiv.


    To comment on this essay, please click here.

     

    [1] Shemos Rabbah 51:6
    [2] Ibid.
    [3] Shemos Rabbah 52:4
    [4] Shemos Rabbah 52:2
    [5] Bereishis Rabbah 8:5
    [6] Berishis Rabbah 12:15. Rashi Genesis 1:1
    [7] Talmud Chagigah 12a
    [8] Tikunei Zohar Tikun 5 (19b).
    [9] Rashi Genesis 1:12
    [10] Talmud Chulin 60b
    [11] Rashi Genesis 1:21
    [12] Midrash Tehilim 8:2
    [13] Talmud Sukkah 53a
    [14] Talmud Shabbos 30a
    [15] Bamidbar Rabbah 10:4
    [16] My thanks to Rabbi Avraham David Shlomo for his help in preparing this essay.

     

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  • Making Space

    by Rabbi Johnathan Sacks

    With this week’s double parsha, with its long account of the construction of the sanctuary – one of the longest narratives in the Torah, taking a full 13 chapters – comes to a magnificent climax:


    Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Sanctuary. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the Glory of the Lord filled the Sanctuary. (Ex. 40:34-35)


    That is what the building of the sanctuary was about: how to bring God, as it were, from heaven to earth, or at least from the top of the mountain to down in the valley, from the remote God of awe-inspiring power to the Shekhinah, the indwelling Presence, God as shakhen, a neighbour, intimate, close, within the camp, in the midst of the people.

    Yet for all this, we wonder why the Torah has to go on at such length in its details of the Mishkan, taking up the whole of Terumahand Tetzaveh, half of Ki Tissa, and then again Vayakhel and Pekudei. After all, the Mishkan was at best a temporary dwelling for the Shekhinah, suited to the years of wandering and wilderness. In Israel, it was superseded by the Temple. For two thousand years in the absence of a Temple its place was taken by the synagogue. Why, if the Torah is timeless, does it devote such space to what was essentially a time-bound structure?

    The answer is deep and life-transforming, but to reach it we have to note some salient facts. First, the language the Torah uses inPekudei is highly reminiscent of the language used in the narrative of the creation of the universe:

    Genesis 1-2 Exodus 39-40
    And God saw all that He had made and behold it was very good. (1:31) Moses saw all the skilled work and behold they had done it; as God had commanded it they had done it. (39:43)
    The heavens and earth and all their array were completed. (2:1) All the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting wascompleted. (39:32)
    And God completed all the work that He had done. (2:2) And Moses completed the work. (40:33)
    And God blessed… (2:3) And Moses blessed… (39:43)
    And sanctified it. (2:3) And you shall sanctify it and all its vessels. (40:9)

    Clearly the Torah wants us to connect birth of the universe with the building of the Mishkan, but how and why?

    The numerical structure of the two passages heightens the connection. We know that the key number of the creation narrative is seven. There are seven days, and the word “good” appears seven times. The first verse of the Torah contains seven Hebrew words, and the second, 14. The word eretz, “earth,” appears 21 times, the word Elokim, “God,” 35 times, and so on.

    So too in Pekudei, the phrase “as the Lord commanded Moses” appears seven times in the account of the making of the priestly garments (Ex. 39:1-31), and another seven times in the description of Moses setting up the Sanctuary (Ex. 40:17-33).

    Note also one tiny detail, the apparently odd and superfluous “And” at the very beginning of the book of Exodus: “And these are the names …” The presence of this connective suggests that the Torah is telling us to see Genesis and Exodus as inherently connected. They are part of the same extended narrative.

    The final relevant fact is that one of the Torah’s most significant stylistic devices is the chiasmus, or “mirror-image symmetry” – a pattern of the form ABCC1B1A1, as in “(A) He who sheds (B) the blood (C) of man, (C1) by man (B1) shall his blood (A1) be shed” (Gen. 9:6). This form can be the shape of a single sentence, as here, or a paragraph, but it can also exist at larger levels of magnitude.

    What it means is that a narrative reaches a certain kind of closure when the end takes us back to the beginning – which is precisely what happens at the end of Exodus. It reminds us, quite precisely, of the beginning of all beginnings, when God created heaven and earth. The difference is that this time human beings have done the creating: the Israelites, with their gifts, the labour and their skills.

    To put it simply: Genesis begins with God creating the universe as a home for humankind. Exodus ends with human beings, the Israelites, creating the Sanctuary as a home for God.

    But the parallel goes far deeper than this – telling us about the very nature of the difference between kodesh and chol, sacred and secular, the holy and the mundane.

    We owe to the great mystic, R. Isaac Luria, the concept of tzimtzum, “self-effacement” or “self-limitation.” Luria was perplexed by the question: If God exists, how can the universe exist? At every point in time and space, the Infinite should crowd out the finite. The very existence of God should act as does a Black Hole to everything in its vicinity. Nothing, not even light waves, can escape a Black Hole, so overwhelming is its gravitational pull. Likewise, nothing physical or material should be able to survive for even a moment in the presence of the pure, absolute Being of God.


    Luria’s answer was that, in order for the universe to exist, God had to hide Himself, screen His presence, limit His Being. That istzimtzum.

    Now let us come back to the key words kodesh and chol. One of the root meanings of chol, and the related root ch-l-l, is “empty.”Chol is the space vacated by God through the process of self-limitation so that a physical universe can exist. It is, as it were, “emptied” of the pure Divine light.


    Kodesh is the result of a parallel process in the opposite direction. It is the space vacated by us so that God’s presence can be felt in our midst. It is the result of our own tzimtzum. We engage in self-limitation every time we set aside our devices and desires in order to act on the basis of God’s will, not our own.

    That is why the details of the Sanctuary are described at such length: to show that every feature of its design was not humanly invented but God-given. That is why the human equivalent of the word “good” in the Genesis creation account is “as the  Lord commanded Moses.” When we nullify our will to do God’s will, we create something that is holy.

    To put it simply: chol is the space God makes for humankind. Kodesh is the space humankind makes for God. And both spaces are created the same way: by an act of tzimtzum, self-effacement.

    So the making of the Sanctuary that takes up the last third of the book of Exodus is not just about a specific construction, the portable shrine that the Israelites took with them on journey through the wilderness. It is about an absolutely fundamental feature of the religious life, namely the relationship between the sacred and the secular, kodesh and cholChol is the space God makes for us. Kodesh is the space we make for God.

    So, for six days a week – the days that are chol – God makes space for us to be creative. On the seventh day, the day that is Kadosh, we make space for God by acknowledging that we are His creations. And what applies in time applies also in space. There are secular places where we pursue our own purposes. And there are holy places where we open ourselves, fully and without reserve, to God’s purposes.


    If this is so, we have before us an idea with life-transforming implications. The highest achievement is not self-expression but self-limitation: making space for something other and different from us. The happiest marriages are those in which each spouse makes space for the other to be his or her-self. Great parents make space for their children. Great leaders make space for their followers. Great teachers make space for their pupils. They are there when needed, but they don’t crush or inhibit or try to dominate. They practice tzimtzum, self-limitation, so that others have the space to grow. That is how God created the universe, and it is how we allow others to fill our lives with their glory.

    Shabbat Shalom,

     

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  • When Opportunity knocks.....Open the Door!

    by Rabbi Avi Matmon

     When opportunity knocks, answer because you may not get a second chance. Or, to quote the language of our Sages "a closed door does not easily [re]open" (Bava Kamma 80b). One must always be ready to immediately take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

    There are thirteen times where Shabbat is mentioned in the Torah it seems like G-d is trying to hammer into us a message, don't you think? Our parsha this week hints something fascinating about Shabbat. Its message is something powerful involving the community and our obligation to it. Let's start with a question about the title of the parsha. There is no other directive that we encounter Moshe addressing the nation as an assembly, a "kahal". Why is it necessary to do so for the mitzva of Shabbat?

    There is a direct correlation between Mishkan and Shabbat: The ultimate purpose of erecting the Mishkan was to achieve "I shall dwell in their midst." Shabbat as well is intended to be "an eternal sign between Me and Bnei Yisrael." (Shemot 31:17)

    The mastery of Man over matter in terms of getting, producing, changing, manufacturing the raw materials of the world, attains it highest meaning in the Temple. The world submits to Man for him to submit himself and his world to God, and for him to change this earthly world into a home for the Kingdom of God, to a Temple in which the Glory of God tarries on earth. The building of the Temple is a sanctification of human labor, and in the context here, it is represented as being a combination of all those creative activities of Man, by the cessation of which - by cessation from all Melacha - the Shabbat is made into an acknowledgment of man's allegiance to God.

    The Torah, in its initial command to avoid a certain class of activities on Shabbat, does not specify those actions. Rather, the Torah states: "Do not do any Melacha". (Sh'mot 20:10). This command is repeated in many other Shabbat-passages (31:14-15, 35:2, Vayyikra 23:3, Devarim 5:14). What is the meaning of Melacha? This key word - which is not only the principal phrase of prohibited work on Shabbat but also on the other Holy Days of the calendar (see Sh'mot 12, Vayikra 23) - means something akin to "work" and is first used in the description of God's creation of the world (B'resheet 2:2-3). Nevertheless, it is not at all clear which type of work is prohibited on Shabbat. How do we distinguish prohibited actions from those which are permitted on Shabbat? The Gemara (Shabbat 49b) records a B'raita that indicates that the definition of Melacha is based upon its meaning in the Mishkan. (See Tosafot ibid. who indicates that this is the reason that the two sections were juxtaposed in the Torah) Any activity which was an integral part of the construction of the Mishkan is defined as Melacha and is, therefore, prohibited on Shabbat.

    Let's get back to our question. I would like to convey a startling message that was derived from a story related by Rabbi Jay Shapiro quoting from the writings of Rabbi Chaim Vital. There was this very important upstanding Jewish community member who was hosting a very urgent meeting at his home. It was a Friday night Shabbat meal. As the host was accompanying the guest home from shul (Bet Haknesset) where they attended the evening services, his wife, with a horrified expression on her face, motioned him into the kitchen. When the husband entered he realized the oven was never turned on before Shabbat and the chicken was not fully cooked. With a houseful of guests in attendance, the host wondered what to do. He looked over his shoulder and discreetly turned on the oven.

    Rabbi Chaim Vital said this person never kept Shabbat! This is a bit harsh considering he was an observant Jew his whole life. Rav Chaim continues, true this upstanding individual always kept Shabbat something which he inherited from his parents, but that is exactly the problem. It came to him automatically; it was a weekly habitual ritual. He was never tested. His friends, neighbors, and family were all Shomer Shabbat. This incident was the first test in his life about keeping Shabbat and he failed.

    In this week's parsha, opportunity is knocking on the door but not taken. After all donations given by the people for the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were collected, the tribal leaders gave their portion. The problem was that by the time they gave, there was virtually nothing left to give because the people's donations had covered almost all of the expenses. The only thing left were the stones on the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). The tribal leaders had lost an opportunity and were not part of the momentous building project of constructing a central yet portable synagogue that would accompany the Jews wherever they found themselves in the dessert and later in the Land of Israel until Solomon's Temple was built.

    "And the leaders brought the shoham stones and filling stones for the ephod and for the Breastplate." (Exodus 35:27) Why did these leaders wait so long before making a donation? Rashi addresses this question and cites a Midrash: This is what the tribal leaders said, 'Let the community donate what they will donate, and whatever they are missing (i.e., whatever is left to be donated), we will complete." Since the community completed everything, the leaders said, "What are we to do?" So, they brought the shoham stones.

    Their intentions seemed noble; they wanted to let others have the opportunity to give. If so, why were they chastised? Rashi continues: Since at first they were lazy (i.e., they did not immediately donate), a letter was removed from their name. [The word "leaders" is intentionally misspelled by omitting a letter (the Hebrew letter "yud.")]

    Take, for example, this past week were an armed officer stood outside a Florida school where a gunman killed 17 people. "Certainly, did a poor job", US President Donald Trump said. Deputy Scot Peterson resigned after an investigation found he failed to confront the suspect. President Trump said Mr. Peterson might be a "coward" who "didn't react properly under pressure". He was there for five minutes. That was during the entire shooting. He heard it right at the beginning. So, he certainly did a poor job.
    We are not here to judge anyone but let's say he was at fault. He, for the most part, should have made an attempt to barge in and apprehend the deranged killer. Granted, it is very dangerous, however this is what he signed up for! For the most part this officer had an uneventful and nonfunctional job. He just stands outside motionless like a British soldier. The school hired him for the purpose to protect its students from a tragic event like what had happened and for that purpose only. Although, it is a million to one odds that it will occur, nevertheless, Peterson had to step up to the plate. This is what he was trained for. Peterson had an opportunity to do what he was brought in this world to do and he failed.

    "These are the things that Hashem commanded, to do them." (35:1) Moshe assembles the entire nation and charges them with the thirty-nine categories of labor prohibited on the Shabbat day. From the words that introduce the commandment to observe the Shabbat, "Eileh hadevarim asher tziva Hashem" - "these are the things G-d commanded", the Talmud derives an allusion to the thirty-nine categories of labor, the numerical value of "eileh" being thirty-nine. The remaining portion of the verse seems awkward. Referring to the directive that G-d has commanded, the verse states "la'asot otam" - "to do them". If Shabbot is a day of curtailed activity, why are the Shabbot restrictions defined as an act of doing?

    The Midrash relates that at this gathering Moshe institutes the authority that every community is required to provide communal study of the Shabbat laws on the Shabbat. What is the rationale for this mandate? Why must it specifically be communal studying? Why must the study be particularly of the Shabbat laws?

    The effect of observing a mitzvah-commandment is entrusted to the individual performing it. The individual's performance of a mitzva has a negligible impact upon the community; one person keeping kosher does not impact upon the community's observance of the dietary laws. The reverse is true as well; the community's observance of kashrut does not affect the individual's observance of the same precept. Shabbat observance is the exception to this rule. An individual who observes the Shabbat surrounded by others who do not, has a very different experience than one who is surrounded by an observant community. Through his Shabbat observance, each individual within a community helps create the Shabbat environment which enhances every member of the community's Shabbat experience. The opposite is also true, the individual desecration of the Shabbat has an adverse effect upon the entire community.

    The obligation to observe the Shabbat requires a person to create a Shabbat environment. Therefore, the verse states "la'asot otam" - "to do them"; Moshe is instructing the Jewish community to create the Shabbat. When I was a child I would recall every time the Sephardic Shul-Bet Haknesset authorities would be informed of an arriving guest from abroad, they would call my parents for they knew that we would be happy to have guests. My parents would capitalize on the opportunity, especially when it came to Shabbat. Shabbat was the happening place where my parents came alive.

    Many of my readers know, my mother past away five and a half months ago. It has been a year seen she lost conciseness. At the very same time of my mother's sudden deterioration, my neighbor's father fell ill as well, and eventually past away around the same time of my mother's passing.

    Since our family finishes the Shabbat meal later than our neighbors, the Englards, I usually to invited Mendy Englard to come by and to share a d'var Torah, then on behalf of the wellbeing, and now in blessed memory of our respective parents. He would come over and we would have a little L'chaim, where then we exchange our Torah thoughts.

    It really enhances the Shabbat table the kids love it and it inspires them to say and partake in our discussions. As for myself and Mendy, although we were trained to be believers of G-d partaking in tremendous trust in Him and we both truly believe our loved ones are in a sacred better place, nevertheless we are not robots. We observant Jews do have feelings, you know! And we miss our loved ones terribly. I must say it is an uplift to have an opportunity to spend time with our neighbor-to enjoy his company and enhance Shabbat and raise the level of spirituality in our neighborhood and block. I believe that is taking advantage of opportunity.

    Another symbol which is critical in enabling a person to sense his connection is his environment. After the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d instructs Moshe to teach Bnei Yisroel how to create a permissible symbol through which they can feel closer to Him. Shabbat is the precept which attests to G-d being the Creator of the Universe and His ongoing involvement in the maintenance of the world. Participating in the creation of the Shabbat environment allows each individual to feel connected to one another and to G-d.

    Many of the requirements of Shabbat are designated to establish the necessary atmosphere for creating the Shabbat environment, the candles, special clothing, and delicacies being but a few examples. Moshe's instituting communal study of the laws of Shabbat is intended to assist in the creation of the Shabbat environment. Having the entire community come together and study the subtleties and nuances of Shabbat observance effectively enhances the Shabbat atmosphere. We have an opportunity to create this atmosphere every week. We are blessed to have opportunity knock on our door every week. Let us take advantage!

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