Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Remember to Observe

R’ Moshe Odess of Tzohar spoke at Yavneh Minyan this week, as part of a Scholar in Residence program with his wife R’n Naamah Odess (is that Odett in Sefardi havarah?)

Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot of his points, being somewhat spacey after the Long Yom Tov, but I had other ideas in reaction to them. So, over the next few days, I’ll post some brief summaries, along with the ideas his talks inspired.

On Friday night, he spoke about Shamor vs. Zachor, the requirements in the two versions of the Ten Commandments to Observe (refrain from creative work) and Remember (do actions to sanctify the day) the Sabbath Day. He linked them with the two formative events that the Sabbath commemorates – Creation and the Exodus. This being Parashat Bereshit, you see – the Creation link. The Friday night service focuses on the Creation, with the paragraph of Vayechulu, which is all about resting, so maybe that’s for the Rest aspect? While the Saturday morning service is the paragraph Veshamru, which is a more active paragraph. The Kiddush also bears this out, the first clause about God resting from the work of Creation, while the next clause saying that it is the beginning day for holy assemblies in memory of the Exodus –where we the Nation actively got up and did stuff, went out, followed God’s commands, etc. What’s the connection between Exodus and Shabbat? I don’t remember his point, but maybe someone else who was there can chime in.

My reaction to this was mostly about Veshamru – it integrates both aspects of Shamor and Zachor. Shamor is the rest from melacha, but Shabbat is not just about sitting around like a lump and not doing anything, there’s also the Zachor aspect – we sanctify Shabbat through doing Shabbosdik things, making Kiddush and havdalah, learning extra Torah that we don’t have time for during the week, being careful about our speech and our leisure activities, etc.

Think about the paragraph:

· Veshamru – The Jews Observe the Shabbat

o Laasot – To DO the Shabbat

§ Ledorotam – as an eternal covenant

§ Ot Hee – it is a Sign between God and Israel

o Ki Sheshet – In six days did God CREATE the universe

· Uvayom ha7 – on the seventh day He RESTED

This displays a chiastic structure: A-B-C-C-B-A. It links Shamru (Shamor) with REST. It links Laasot (to DO) with the Act of CREATION. And in the center, the Covenant is an Eternal Sign. What we DO on Shabbat is the Zachor aspect. So Resting on Shabbat is linked to Shamor, Doing is linked to Zachor, and the whole thing is an integrated whole. More, the Shamor aspect, the rest from melacha, creates a context in which the Zachor aspect, the Actions, have actual meaning. They are not symbolic, they are part of an integrated experience.

And what about the link to the Exodus? If the night is about creation, the day is surely about the exodus? Well, the paragraph is in the middle of the description of the Mishkan, the ultimate physical link between us and God during the Exodus. It is linked to the Second Tablets narrative, even if it isn’t the literal Second Tablets version of the commandment (according to R’ Reuven Cohn of Boston). And, as R’ Odess mentioned, the Kabbalah tells us that God looked into the Torah and (used it as a blueprint to) created the Universe. So they are all linked – Creation and Exodus, Torah and Creation, Shamor and Zachor, inaction and action, a complete integrated Shabbat experience.

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