Very few announcements this week – we are in the week of Passover, a time to eat the leftovers from our Seder meals (one of life’s mysteries: why when I cook for two people, do we still have enough leftovers for 12?) and a time perhaps to reflect on some of the questions and discussions we held at our respective Seders. Some of us were able to have small family Seders because we were now vaccinated – such hope in the air as a result. The last day of Passover is Sunday, April 4th. We will be holding a Yizkor service on Friday night, April 2nd.
Shavua tov everyone. I am writing this note on one foot as I continue to reflect on the teachings of Exodus and look forward to entering Vayikra, the centre, the core of Torah.
I want to include one last thought about Sh’mot, even as we move forward this week.
One of the encounters in Torah was that of the Israelites encountering Amalek, not long after leaving Egypt. The reference I am making below is more complete in Deuteronomy (25:17-19), and is barely inferred in Exodus: that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, “when you were famished and weary,” and cut down the stragglers in the rear. Yet even by inference, there is an important teaching here.
Many of our teachings in Torah were and are revolutionary – in every way from economic to social. In the book of Exodus, of Shemot we were called to remember and keep Shabbat. Let’s try and think for a few minutes about how utterly revolutionary that command was and still is: Stop working. Do not engage in any manner of creative work.
Millennia ago, we were a people who knew nothing but enforced work. And then God demanded we cease and desist from any manner of work that in any way replicated the 39 melachot, the 39 acts of work used to create the Sanctuary, the Mishkan. These activities are symbolic of God’s own creating, but where humans create and alter elements. Be it by plowing or winnowing, sifting or smoothing, shearing or spinning (or any modern-day variations of these kinds of work), we are enjoined by God to rest on Shabbat. Instead of ceaseless melachah, God wanted us to know joy and rest, menuchah, Shabbat.