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February 28, 2003 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-28

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hilt/ KO-4ter G#14.ate

Torah Portion

God's Plan Calls For A Life
Of Work And Productive Rest


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Shabbat (except of course in cases of
pikuach nefesh, the need to protect
human life). In fact, the rabbis of the
Mishnah deduced the laws of Shabbat
from the labors involved in the build-
ing of the tabernacle prohibiting acts
on Shabbat which would have been
part of the building process.
But there is something else here.
Notice that the passive voice ("Work
shall be done") is used to describe the
round this time of year, as
weekdays and the more active voice
winter in Michigan seems
("You Shall have a complete rest")
endless, it seems particularly
describes the Shabbat.
appropriate to
Life needs balance. We
remember God's promise to
need time to work and time
Noah after the flood: "So
to rest. Often, however, we
long as the earth endures,
look at Shabbat as a passive
seedtime and harvest, cold
time compared to the active
and heat, summer and win-
time of the workweek. In
ter, day and night, shall not
some ways, this is accurate;
we are commanded not to
Even if we occasionally
interfere with the natural
doubt the wisdom of the "I
world over Shabbat and to
love the change of seasons"
RABBI ROBERT allow ourselves to be moved
defense we're so fond of
with time instead of trying
quoting to our Southern
to affect time.
Special to the
friends, the truth is that we
However, in another
are in a good position in
Jewish News
sense, Shabbat is not a pas-
Michigan to appreciate the
sive observance. In a busy,
balance of the natural world.
competitive, rushed world, it takes an
The mishkan, the tabernacle in the
active will to consciously and purpose-
desert whose construction is described
fully refrain from certain activities for
in the end of the book of Exodus,
a day.
reflects, according to some commen-
Shabbat is not supposed to be a
taries, a desire to build a physical sym-
time of emptiness. It rather is a time
bol of the balance and symmetry of
in which we replace the activities of
God's creation.
the week, which too often seem forced
Rather than an attempt to dazzle
upon us ("work shall be done," in the
the people with ostentatious brilliance
words of the Torah) with activities
and thus divert their attention from
that uplift us, inspire us, revive us and
God, the exquisite care taken to build
help us to appreciate the holiness-of
the structure was to give people a
our existence.
sense of focus by which they could
So, we build, in the words of
appreciate the completeness and bal-
Abraham Joshua Heschel, our "sanctu-
ance of God's creation. Thus, the
ary in time" to allow us to appreciate
mishkan is built in a symmetrical, bal-
the world all the more.
anced way, which will lead to a sense
Shabbat, our mishkan, reminds us
of comfort and connection.
of the need for balance and complete-
This portion, which includes the
ness and ideally reflects everything
actual description of the building
that this world can be. [1]
project, opens with Moses gathering
the people together and, almost
immediately, the commandment to
observe Shabbat is repeated: "Six days
shall work be done, but on the sev-
enth day, you should rest."
How can we keep from viewing
The mention of Shabbat here
Shabbat as a "lazy" day but one
underscores the fact that no human
which is vital and meaningful in
endeavor, even the building of the
our lives? How can we help our
mishkan, takes precedence over
synagogues reflect the balance in

Shabbat Shekalim;
Shabbat Vayakhel:
Exodus 35:1-38:20;
II Kings 12:1-17.


Robert Dobrusin is rabbi of Beth



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Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor. His
e-mail address is

God's creation? Where do we see
the evidence of the balance and
symmetry in the world?

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