Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Shabbat for All?

In Exodus on March 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I go to Temple
and my neighbors go to Church
We rest together

Parsha Ki Tissa

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying: Verily ye shall keep My sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD who sanctify you.

Exodus 31.13

The Hebrew can be translated to know I am the LORD who sanctify you.  Mekhilta says that had the Torah simply stopped at keep my sabbaths we might understand Shabbat to be binding upon everyone, but the statement to know means the commandment applies to those that have understanding only, and those that do not are excluded.  Does this mean that the covenant is only open to a select few who have this understanding?  Is understanding genetic, or can it be attained? What must one understand to observe Shabbat?

Is Shabbat open to everyone? If observing Shabbat is the sign of the covenant, is the covenant open to everyone? What does this mean?

  1. Cryptic but well said.

    • Thank you!

      I try to spend as much time as possible between the lines. (No pun intended: I liked your post about Pythagoras!)

  2. […] Shabbat for All? ( […]

  3. Wait a minute! [At least from the English sense of this..]:

    1) This is supposed to be addressed “to the children of Israel.” Adopted children? Presumably those as well. The early Christians came to include gentiles, but not as converts to Judaism as much as subjects of Jesus, thought of as King of Israel (& thus indirectly over the rest of us.)

    2) It says to do this as a sign, a reminder of Who’s Who. Without some time taken for rest & contemplation, a person forgets. Taking that time specifically on the Sabbath, according to what’s here, is a requirement for “children of Israel” for the specific purpose of helping whoever of them might have lost that understanding, to regain it.

    Someone who remembered could presumably enjoy the time also…

  4. The Rabbis of blessed memory had a problem with a God who would put a stumbling block before the blind, and the implication that those who just don’t know any better are doomed. While God will play the child over the anthill with a magnifying glass every once in a while when we need a good swift kick in the pants, She doesn’t do so vindictively. So the Rabbis read into this the more stringent requirements on the Jew versus the Gentile, so that all righteous, Jew and Gentile, will have a share in the world to come. Of course the assumption is that the “children of Israel” have understanding and everyone else does not. Is it the child’s fault if she’s born blind? Of course not. Neither should it be accounted against someone who just doesn’t have a clue, but is otherwise a fine person.

    Then the question becomes, what does it mean to be a child of Israel? There is the covenant of flesh, but that’s not a polite calling card to show people, is it? And if you’re a woman, you’re out of luck in any case. What is the central defining characteristic of Israelite religion? Shabbat observance. A holy day every week. So this becomes more than simply “You are meat. I am God. Stop working, and sit in the dark.”

    Shabbat is a covenant between Israel and God throughout our generations. Honoring the covenant is informed observance of the covenant. This is an identifying mark. So if someone acquires enough understanding to observe Shabbat meaningfully, regardless of who they are, is that not a visible affirmation of identification with the people Israel?

    You can read it to mean “to know I am the Lord who sanctify you,” as a reminder of Who’s Who. You can also read it to mean “to know I am the Lord who sanctify YOU,” as a reminder of who’s you! So it is in fact an expression of love and a double reminder: “to remember I am God, who brought YOU out of Egypt to be your God.” Which comes first?

    That leads to another chicken in the egg question: do we understand before observing? or observe before understanding? Do we observe Shabbat to understand who God is and who we are? Or do we understand who we are, therefore we observe Shabbat? On the one hand, we shall do and we shall hear. On the other hand:

    On one occasion when Rabbi Targon, Rabbi Yose the Galilean, and Rabbi Akiba were assembled in Lydda, the following question was thane up: Which is more important, study or practice? Rabbi Targon spoke up and said, “Practice.” Rabbi Akiba spoke up and said, “Study.” Whereupon they concluded: Study is more important, for study leads to practice.

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