An Approach to a 'Hard' Jewish Law: Sabbath Observance
What if I find dignity and freedom in working and resting
whenever I want?
Shabbat is the only ritual commandment among the 10 commandments and-- as far
as I know-- the only ritual commandment (commandments between God and
man) the prophets railed against its non-observance.
it's THE ritual link to the non-ritual / ethical / moral commandments.
say that I fail at a moral test-- which is really a test given by God;
therefore I have not only failed myself and the person or society, but I
have failed God as well.
I am now naked and ashamed. What do I do? Slough off God and the commandments?
Not so fast.
I can redeem myself through a ritual, which is the only ritual--
remember-- that is in the 10 Commandments, and the only ritual that the prophets
railed against its non-observance.
What does my moral / ethical failure
represent? A lack of faith in God. How? Because if I really trusted
God, I would have allowed myself to move courageously into the
do-the-right-thing zone and let the chips fall where they may by performing the famous 'leap of faith'. But I
didn't, and so I now mourn in my nakedness and shame ('dust and ashes').
is at this vulnerable point -- a point that many defect to Christianity
because it holds out a get out of jail (the Commandments) free card -- that the Sabbath
stands as a sentinel to remind (zakhor!) us that we can return to some
semblance of dignity by REDEEMING OUR FAITHLESSNESS IN GOD BY HAVING
FAITH IN GOD THROUGH OBSERVANCE (shamor!) OF THE SABBATH, WHICH IS
REALLY ONE DAY IN WHICH WE CEASE 'TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS' IN ORDER TO
RITUALLY SHOW OUR FAITH THAT GOD WILL PROVIDE.
It's as if the coward has a second chance in a simulated area in which he can redeem his failure to 'leap' by sitting down! (the root meaning of Sabbath/Shabbat is 'sit')
is from this simulated moral victory that gives us the rest in order
to come back to the real moral world (or at least be able to show our
face in it, instead of hiding in shame).
I have still failed
morally (the real moral test in the real world), but I have at least
stayed within Judaism / the Tora, which has offered me a little rest and
dignity through a simulated moral test.
An Approach to a 'Hard' Jewish Law: Fasting on Yom Kippur
The Temple was a bloody place. Why? Let's start at the beginning. In
Genesis, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He gave them animal skins to
clothe themselves instead of the plant 'skins' (fig leaves) they made to
clothe themselves. Later, Abel's animal offering was preferred to
Cain's plant offering.
Jumping to Sinai, the people were told
that they and their animals would be killed if they got too close to the
mountain. Later, in the desert, the Tabernacle (a portable Sinai) centered around animal
sacrifices; and on its first official day of operation two of the high
priest's sons (Nadav and Abihu) were killed by God in the middle of
We can conclude from this that the coming close
(interestingly, KRBN means both 'drawing close' and [animal] 'offering'--
see Leviticus 1:2 ) of the creature to its Creator 'spatially' (represented by the Tabernacle/Temple/Sinai) can easily result in the death of a human* and always -- in the Temple/Tabernacle -- results in the death
of a sacrificial animal WHO REPRESENTS US.**
Thus, con-Temple-ating the much smaller sacrifice of a little water and fat
during our fast can make Yom Kippur -- the day we [ritually] come closest to God -- less 'hard' to observe. But if we 'try' and fail to observe Yom Kippur (or any ritual) properly -- as I am prone to do -- the Oral Law (the Talmud Mishna Yoma 8:9) states that this very day atones for ritual transgressions [between a person and God]. (but see "sefaria.org/Mishnah_Yoma.8?lang=bi" for an important exception).
* the only 'justification' I can see for the extermination decrees (see esp. Joshua) is that Canaan/Israel -- the only area that straddles three continents -- is God's 'portion', of which He is zealous/jealous of; therefore, proximity to it spatially (whether in a covenant with Him or not) comes with conditions. In other words, when the Canaanites and later the Israelites accumulated transgressions they were -- in a sense -- 'ritually slaughtered'. "Through those who come close (KRV) to Me I will be sanctified" (Lev.10:3) means those who come near Me spatially are liable to be killed (cf. Ex.19:22)
** the word KPR ('atonement') comes out of the root KP, which is directly related to the English 'cap' and the Hebrew 'kippa' (also, hear how KPR sounds like 'cover'). In other words, since the animal 'represents' us (the creature before the Creator at the Temple), it takes the 'hit' for us / 'covers' us.
I wrote something in my Sept.16 2017 that corroborates my theory here and explains why they made a Golden [lit. 'masking'- Ex.32:4] Calf at Sinai: "...because of the awesomeness of the Sinai revelation ("Let not God speak
with us lest we die"-Ex.20:16), and the fact that Moses hadn't come down the
mountain after 40 days, the people feared he was destroyed by the
encounter. So they created something that could stand between them and
God." There is a direct link between the people being commanded to not make gods of gold and silver (Ex.20:23) and making an altar to offer animal sacrifices (Ex.20:24-26) to God [who speaks from 'heaven'- Ex.20:22]. The juxtaposition implies: God is 'far away' in 'heaven' (i.e. holy) so I've given (commanded) you to put on a 'play' (ritual area) in which this distance can simultaneously be strengthened (i.e. made holy) and bridged (the root TsVH in mitsva literally means to squeeze / join close).
Now that we see how important the Temple is to idolatry-prone Israel, the main project of the Talmud can be seen as extending the Temple (as the Tabernacle/Temple extended Sinai) to other areas, such as the home and the synagogue (see the very beginning of the Talmud: "From what time do we say the Shma? [evening prayer]. From the hour when the priests enter to eat their truma [priest's share] until the end of the first [Temple] watch." - Talmud Brakhot). In other words, the Talmud's approach to the question of "What is to be done now that we (i.e. the surviving remnant after the destruction of 70 and 135 CE; although Pharisees like Hillel and Shammai were answering this question long before-- see, for example, the 'fantastic' 'play' of ch.8 Talmud Brakhot) have no Temple, priesthood, Land, and kingship?" makes studying it fun and exciting.