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eJudaism: 42 - Casey Kasem, Shlomo Alkabetz, the Sabbath Bride, Shavuot (Part 3)

05/28/2022 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Coming in at #4 on the Top 10 Commandments chart is Remember (Zachor) the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Also coming in at #4 on the charts is Guard (Shamor) the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Those two tablets we got at Sinai on the first Shavuot - which was also a Shabbat! - show up twice in the Torah, once with Zachor, once with Shamor. Why?

Jewish tradition tells us that God spoke both words - Shamor/Zachor - simultaneously, and that it was more than just a great party trick. It was, in fact, a way of situating each Shabbat in the undefined space between the past and the future. It is a now that pauses time. Abraham Joshua Heschel called our Sabbaths cathedrals, sanctuaries in time. Standing on that sanctuary threshold, we remember to look backwards and connect ourselves to what came before, and we safeguard the Jewish future. To enter that sanctuary, we light two Shabbat candles, one each for Zachor and Shamor, bringing them together to sanctify time itself and to create Shabbat, our interstitial rest-stop between before and after.

Nearly 500 years ago, the Kabbalist Shlomo Alkabetz entered that sanctuary by walking out the door of his actual sanctuary to recite the opening words of Lecha Dodi, his most famous work: Shamor v'zachor b'dibur echad, Guard and remember spoken in a single word. While singing those words each Friday night, he would literally walk out into the field so that he could greet the Sabbath bride even before she arrived at the synagogue door. Bo'i kallah, bo'i kallah, Come in, Sabbath bride. Today we remember his generous hospitality by standing and facing the doorway as we sing that final verse and usher in Shabbat.

Did God stop creating on the seventh day or spend the day creating Shabbat? I prefer the latter, since Shabbat doesn't just happen. If we want Shabbat in our lives, we need to create it ourselves, and we should. Without rest, the work is endless. Without the holy, the mundane is monotonous. We work in order to be able to pause. We pause in order to return to the work refreshed.

The great Zionist thinker Achad Ha'am said, "More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people." We need Shabbat. We need sanctuaries of time. It's easier than you think to build one for yourself. Try it now. Close your eyes. Take five deep breaths. Don't dwell in the before. Don't plan the after. Just create a now of peace and rest. Inhabit it as fully as you can. Watch it spread to the people around you. Give yourself the gift we've been cherishing since that first Shavuot/Shabbat when we stood as a people at Sinai's foot.



Tue, July 23 2024 17 Tammuz 5784