Friday, March 9, 2018

Shabbat, The Heart of Unity

Shabbat is one of the Ten Commandments, and is one of the most frequently referred-to mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah. Shabbat is regarded as the “heart” of Jewish life. It sets a rhythm to Jewish time and offers a steady flow of spirituality for the rest of the week. Shabbat is also unique in that it is distinguished as a special gift given to the Jewish people directly from “God’s Treasure House” (Talmud Shabbat 10a).

Why is Shabbat such a unique treasure? In commanding the Jewish people to rest on the seventh day, God gave the People an opportunity to emulate His own rest after creating the world. “I gave them My Shabbats to serve as a sign between Me and them, that they might know that it is I the Lord Who sanctify them” (Ezekiel 20:12). The Jewish people sanctify “time” because God sanctifies the Jewish people. This is reflected in the text of the prayers of Shabbat that alternate between mentioning Shabbat as an emulation of God’s day of rest and as a commemoration of God’s taking the Jewish people out of Egypt.

The connection of the Jewish people to Shabbat is inseparable. The Hebrew poet Achad Ha’am expressed it beautifully when he wrote: “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.”

Jewish life is centered around the observance of mitzvot derived from the Torah and instituted by the sages. The Talmudic sage Rabbi Levi, however, states that “Shabbat [properly kept] is equivalent to all of the mitzvot” (Exodus Rabbah 25:12). For this reason, Rabbi Levi also declared that “If all of Israel were to guard Shabbat even for one day, the son of David [the Messiah] would come!” (ibid.).

Imagine the power of a unified Shabbat celebrated by all Jews... Join tonight’s Shabbat Across America and Canada, at an official location or through Shabbat Across America and Canada @Home, and let’s help bring the Messiah!

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