Parshat Acharei Mot A Meaningful Life Requires Dedication

It is fascinating that our Bible commands us to perform the laws and statutes of the Lord and then it adds “and he shall live by them.” Would any moral individual think to perform laws that could cause them to die? Our Sages use this seemingly superfluous phrase to teach a most important lesson, one which distinguishes Judaism from some other religions: “You shall live by these My laws and not die by them. If someone says to you, ‘Desecrate the Sabbath or I’ll kill you,’ you must desecrate the Sabbath; desecrate one Sabbath so that you will live to observe many more Sabbaths” (BT, Yoma 85b).

Our religion revels in life. To be sure, there are instances when one must be ready to die for one’s faith, but this is limited to three most egregious crimes: murder, sexual immorality and idolatry. If one says to a Jew, “kill X or I’ll kill you; rape Y or I’ll kill you,” the Jew must give up his or her life rather than commit these crimes. Similarly, in times of persecution, Jews must demonstrate that they will not give in to gentile pressure — even pressure unto death — to relinquish their faith. But under ordinary conditions, no Jewish law overrides the preservation of human life.

Even the famous test of Abraham, the apparent Divine command that Abraham sacrifice his son to Him, concludes with Abraham being forbidden to harm his son (Kierkegaard notwithstanding). The most classic commentary, Rashi, even goes so far as to say that Abraham misunderstood the Divine command, that God never meant that he should slaughter his son, but rather dedicate him in life and not in death.

What still remains strange and difficult to understand is that immediately following the biblical mandate to “live by God’s laws” comes a long list of prohibited sexual relationships which fall under the rubric of “one must die rather than transgress.”

If living by God’s laws is so important, why follow that stricture with laws for which one must be willing to die rather than transgress?

I believe the answer is to be found in a difficult conundrum recorded in the Talmud (BT, Tamid 32b) as part of a discussion between Alexander the Great and the Elders of the Negev: Alexander asked, “What ought people do if they wish to keep on living?” The Elders answered: “They must slay themselves.”

Asked Alexander: “What ought people do if they wish to die?” Answered the Elders: “They should try to stay alive!”

Let us answer the second question first. If an individual lives only in order to keep on living, he is bound to fail, and he will die in the end; after all, I am not aware of any individual who got out of this world alive!

If a person wishes to die, let him continue to try to stay alive forever. He will surely die, because he will surely fail.

And what ought someone do if he wants to keep on living? Let him slay himself, or at least find an idea to live for which is more significant than his own life. Then even if he dies in pursuit of that ideal, his life will have gained ultimate meaning and he himself will be linked to eternity.

Martin Luther King Jr. put it very well in his famous Detroit speech in June 1963: “And I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he ain’t fit to live.”

The only life that is truly meaningful is a life dedicated to an idea that is greater than one individual’s life.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is the chief rabbi of Efrat, Israel.

Restoring Ourselves, Our World

“When the heart cries, only God hears/The pain rises out of the soul/Hear Israel my God/now I am alone/Make me strong/make it that I won’t be afraid.”

Parshat Metzora is about purity and impurity. It is about skin disease, rashes and eruptions on the body, clothing and dwelling. These are not the most pleasant of subjects. The Torah describes how impurity causes exclusion from society, shame and loneliness.

Impurity is brought on by many things. What rabbis have most discussed as a cause of impurity is the sin of lashon harah — gossip and slander. Everyone knows that the Torah talks a lot about kashrut and how we must watch what we put into our mouths. This parshah, however, stresses how we become impure for not watching what comes out of our mouths. Words have meaning and can do tremendous damage.

Parshat Metzora describes the elaborate rituals whereby one is purified through a process that is truly like a rebirth. One of the most important elements includes the mayim chayim, or living waters. This mikvah, together with the other rituals, cleanses the body and soul of impurity so one can re-enter society.

There are times when all of us need a process such as this. None of us is perfect, and we need to work to recognize when we do wrong and address it. The Torah challenges us to realize that sins such as lashon harah that make us impure are natural human traits, yet traits that we must try to resist.

As we look inward at what we need to fix within ourselves, we are also challenged to look at the impurities of the world and start to restore it. This is tikkun olam, repairing a world that has been broken into pieces.

Our job is to try to put the pieces back together. We can start to do this by helping those in need and by including those who have been left out.

The words of the song at the beginning of this d’var Torah give a message of hope and urge us to look to God for strength and courage. This song, “When the Heart Cries” with lyrics by Yossi Gispan and Arlet Tzfadia, is a reflection of how I have begun my part in the work of putting the pieces of our world back together.

As part of my bat mitzvah project, I became involved with Meir Panim, an Israeli charity that helps the hungry and impoverished in Israel. I participated in the Meir Panim singing competition and helped raise funds for the organization. Continuing this work, I have organized an event at the Meyerberg Senior Center, where I will bring many of my classmates to sing and perform for seniors. Additionally, the seniors will have the opportunity to perform for my classmates and each other. I hope this will bring joy and a sense of connection to all of us.

Each of us has a role in effecting tikkun olam. I hope we can all think about the idea of rebirth and how we can work to improve and purify our world.

Shira Pomerantz is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

More Than Words

Although leprosy isn’t a concern today, the timelessness of this biblical ailment’s message deeply resonates. After explaining the purity rituals of childbirth, Parshat Tazria dives into a lengthy and detailed description of the skin-condition tzara’at, commonly known today as leprosy.

Essentially, if people developed white discolorations on their skin, they were brought to the kohain. The kohain examined them to determine whether they were ritually clean or unclean and quarantined them during an examination period of varying lengths. If the kohain determined that the person had tzara’at, the sinner repented through a process involving sacrifice, mikvah immersion and the shaving of all their hair.

Considering how God inflicted Miriam with leprosy after she denounced Moshe for marrying Zipporah, a dark-skinned woman, our sages stated that leprosy was the punishment for lashon harah, derogatory speech of another person using true facts. When someone developed the symptoms of tzara’at, the kohain quarantined him or her, because spreading negative gossip may turn families, friends or acquaintances against one another.

Although lashon harah specifically denotes demeaning another person, the Lubavitcher Rebbe brings another relevant perspective. In one of his stories, a man approaches Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch and describes himself as a horrible villain while listing all of his moral and spiritual insufficiencies. “Surely,” the Rebbe replies, “you know how grave is the sin of lashon harah, speaking evilly of a human being. Nowhere, to my knowledge, does it say that it is permissible to speak lashon harah about oneself.”

As people, we constantly belittle ourselves. Either out loud or internally, we bemoan and feel devastated over our self-perceived deficiencies and blemishes. But if we wouldn’t judge someone else so harshly, or want him or her to perceive us in such a negative, lacking way, why do we relentlessly critique ourselves?

Words are never “just words”; they transform thoughts and concepts into reality. It’s one thing to have a moral essence tainted with some imperfect thoughts or tendencies — we’re all human. We’re not expected to be flawless, only to try and conquer our undesirable inclinations. However, if another person gossips about these faults, it actualizes them and cements them as a part of our identity. Once you gossip to someone, it will spread, and it’s impossible to take back your words.

Conversely if you exercise speech to spread encouragement and positivity, the subject of your speech may feel empowered and motivated to live up to the positive expectations now verbalized, and by extension, believed about them. You still affect the original three; yourself, the person you’re speaking to and the object of your speech, but for the better.

The tzara’at infliction wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it granted sinners a chance to repent and cleanse themselves. Today, with social media, it’s realistic to assume we commit more lashon harah than our biblical ancestors. However, we don’t have the warning that tzara’at provided. It’s dependent on us to look out for ourselves and each other to stop the harm constantly perpetrated though damaging words. Perhaps today’s lack of leprosy displays God’s faith in us to speak kindly about ourselves and each other without His unsightly reminder. That’s an expectation we should strive to achieve.

Rachel’s True Performance

My name is Goldie, I’m in the sixth grade, and I can’t wait to tell you my story. Ever since second grade, my best friend, Rachel, and I wanted to be in the Shara Girl’s Choir. Everyone knows that only sixth-graders and above are allowed to try out, and only the good singers make it in. Landing a solo in the Shara Choir is also pretty competitive. Not everyone can get one, period.

Well, G-d blessed Rachel with a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. My voice varies. Sometimes it sounds like a recorder blown a bit too hard; other times it sounds like a flute. Rachel and I laugh about it, but the truth is, when I really practice singing, my voice has potential.

You can imagine how really nervous I was when I tried out, but a week later I was accepted into the choir. Both Rachel and I had solos and a duet to end the concert. Some of the other girls didn’t land solos, and I heard that they were a bit jealous of me. I ignored some of their comments. I just kept on working to get ready for my part.

When the concert finally arrived, the auditorium’s seats were filled. The concert began, our choir danced and sang, and the audience loved it.

And then came our turn at the end. I dragged myself, weak legs and all, out front and grabbed my microphone and looked at Rachel, who held hers. I shook but took a deep belly breath. And then I heard a little burst, almost like a balloon popping.

I noticed that my microphone stopped working. Rachel sang, and when it was my turn, I sang into nothingness. No one could hear me. My face turned beat red, and I looked over at Rachel. She smiled and continued, then turned to face me. I stood there completely stunned and wanted to be buried under the stage, never to be seen again.

I looked to face some of the other girls, who just shrugged their shoulders. Maybe I didn’t deserve this solo. But that’s when Rachel ran next to me, handing me her microphone toward the end of her solo. Now it was my turn to sing, and she was to sing again after me. She stood with my broken microphone while I stood and sang clearly and beautifully into her perfectly good one. I couldn’t believe it. Rachel was giving up a bit of her solo to help me sing mine. I closed my eyes and sang as beautifully as I could, and then I put my arm around Rachel, and I tried handing her back the mike. She leaned into it, but let me hold it, and we ended with a duet that sounded mostly like my singing.

I was shocked. I stood on stage frozen, not knowing what would happen next. My eyes moved out to the audience, which was standing and clapping for us. “What?” I thought. “They really liked our song, even though we messed most of it up.”

And then I saw how Rachel actually saved me from embarrassment by giving up her solo for the sake of mine. That night as I stood there smiling, I realized how lucky I was to have such a sensitive friend and how together we had shown the audience much more than anyone had thought possible.

The Torah teaches us that we are not allowed to embarrass another. How praiseworthy it is then to save another from embarrassment.

Discussion Questions
1. Why is it so important to save someone from embarrassment?
2. How would embarrassing someone be like murder?
3. What are other ways we can help prevent others from being embarrassed?

Danielle Sarah Storch is a local freelance writer. “Shabbat Table Talk” is a monthly feature synthesizing Torah insights and lessons for children of all ages.

Lifting of Hands as One

2013-axler-craigAmong the events recorded in this week’s Torah portion is the initiation of sacrifice, the first communal worship of the ancient Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Having been prepared both in procedure and in all the necessary elements, Aaron and his sons are consecrated as kohanim — priests — with the offering of the first sacrifice. The text tells us that after he arranged multiple animals on the altar: “Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them.”

This “lifting of hands” is reminiscent of a tradition that passes through generations of kohanim in the days of the Tabernacle and then the First and Second Temples. It is reflected in the maintenance of a priestly line in Jewish families to this day. Among the most sacred continuing functions of the kohain is the responsibility to bless the people of Israel. Done differently in various communities of Jews, and depending on locations inside of the land of Israel or in the Diaspora, this blessing always includes the aspect of “lifting of hands.”

Though the full blessing and procedure will be fleshed out in the book of Numbers, our parshah alludes to the physical element of the blessing, the hands used to convey God’s blessing. The next verses tell us: “Moses and Aaron then went inside the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people and the Presence of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar. All the people saw, and shouted, and fell on their faces.”

This was the very first manifestation of God’s acceptance of the sacrifice offered on behalf of the priests and on behalf of the people as a whole — an awesome moment to be sure! In a beautiful comment, Nefesh Yehonatan points out a difference between the way that the Torah is written in Leviticus 9:22 and the way that it is to be read. The ketiv or written text for “his hands” is yud-daled-vav, yielding yado, or the singular “his hand.” But it is read as yud-daled-yud-vav — yadav, “his hands.”

The commentator notes: “Israel is blessed when they are united in fellowship. Accordingly, Aaron’s two hands were made as one. All of the hands [of the priests] were made into one hand, outstretched to the heavens to bring down upon Israel the flow of blessings from the highest places.”

While it is traditionally the kohanim who stretch out their hands in blessing before the congregation when they pronounce the words of the Priestly Benediction, the custom has developed that we include these words and this aspect of blessing with hands when we gather our children to bless them before the Shabbat or festival meal. Making us a “nation of priests,” we place our hands upon the heads of our next generations, bringing God’s blessing upon them and stretching back to the moment when the entire people first witnessed a confirmation of that blessing, the sacred fire that emanated from God in this week’s Torah portion.

We pray that our outstretched hands will bring blessing, unity, acceptance and holiness — that our hands together with all of the hands stretched forth in kindness will become as one, causing blessing to flow on us and all Israel.

Rabbi Craig Axler is spiritual leader of Temple Isaiah in Fulton.

Love and Inclusivity

This weekend is packed with mitzvahs. On Shabbos, we read Parshat Tzav and Parshat Zachor. On Saturday night, we read Megilat Esther and then again on Sunday, together with all the other mitzvahs of Purim — gifts to friends, charity to the poor and a Purim banquet.

There’s a wonderful theme running through all of these.

Sometimes the counterintuitive proposition is true. This is the case with miracles. Intuitively we would expect miracles to be obvious and completely supernatural; however, G-d’s miracles are always clothed in the natural.

In this week’s parshah, we find that the Kohanim were commanded to keep a fire constantly burning on the altar in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple. They had to add wood to it every morning and evening.

The Talmud tells us that the fire on the altar was really a miraculous fire that came down from heaven. The obvious question, then, is why add wood? The answer is that, befitting the honor of G-d’s miracles, they are always performed in a hidden way. They are either totally or partially within the framework of natural laws.

This is why at the splitting of the Red Sea, G-d caused a strong east wind to blow the whole night. Even though everyone knows that the sea becoming dry land is a miracle, G-d made it appear like the wind caused it. So too, the Kohanim had to add wood to the fire.

We often look for G-d in our lives in the obvious realms; we look for the supernatural miracle. This is a mistake. G-d operates in the hidden realm. We will see G-d in our lives when we create an inner world, a place hidden from everything and everyone, alone with ourselves and our thoughts. Besides the self-discovery we would find, we might just find G-d as well!

Parshat Zachor, meanwhile, reminds us of Amalek, the first nation to attack the Jews after we left Egypt. Amalek would not accept that we’ve got G-d on our side. He chose to only see the wind parting the sea. He refused to see that behind it all is G-d orchestrating everything.

Megilat Esther presents the story of Purim. G-d’s name does not appear in the entire scroll, yet we know what a tremendous miracle Purim was. The turning point in the story is when King Achashverosh wakes up in the middle of the night. He reads the palace chronicles and finds that Mordechai prevented an assassination. The rest is history: The king couldn’t sleep, and Jewish survival was ensured! That’s the sort of miracle G-d does for us all the time.

G-d’s love for the Jewish people motivates Him to perform these miracles for us. The mitzvahs of Purim, therefore, teach us how to love.

Gifts to friends and even those you are not so close with create community and love. Charity, meanwhile, creates community and inclusivity. Sometimes, in following this mitzvah, we have to go out of our way to find two poor people. That is intentional, because inclusiveness requires us to go out of our way.

G-d is devoted to every Jew. He loves and cares for us and ensures our survival and eventual security and success as a nation. But we will only start to fathom G-d’s love if we start to feel the emotions ourselves. These mitzvahs coach us to do just that.

The Purim banquet is a big celebration. It’s the letting down of our hair and being in a mindset of no worries because we have a G-d who is the ruler of the universe, loves us very much and does miracles for us all the time.

Rabbi Nitzan Bergman is executive director of Etz Chaim: The Center for Jewish Living and Learning and founder and president of the WOW! program for young professionals.

Drawing Closer to the Almighty

This week we begin the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, which means “God called.” This book of the Torah talks about how our ancestors praised God by sacrificing animals in the Temple.

I believe that the Israelites brought sacrifices because they thought they needed to express thanks to God, thanks for everything that He did and also make requests for a better life.

Why did we sacrifice to God? Did God need our sacrifices? God didn’t need our sacrifices to use them for anything, but the people needed them in order to feel God’s nearness.

In the opening verse of the Haftarah, God recognizes that the Israelites have brought sacrifices but have not yet honored God. He does not want the people to feel burdened with sacrifices meant simply as an atonement for sins they may have committed. Instead, God wants the people to understand the wrongs they have committed against others and to repent and to do better. God tells the people to think not only about what happened in the past but also about a new relationship with God.

Today, we don’t sacrifice, but we pray. I believe praying is very important, because it’s a personal time to thank God for something or to ask God for something based on whatever is going on at the time. Also, we are commanded to perform mitzvot for people and in our relationship with God. It is important to volunteer and to help organizations that are dedicated to the needy, because not all people in the world are as fortunate as we are; by helping other people, we can thank God for everything we have.

For my bat mitzvah project, I am asking for donations for a family shelter called Night of Peace. This is a shelter for women and children that provides care and a warm and safe place to sleep.

The Hebrew word sacrifice, korban, means to come closer. This relates to my bat mitzvah project, because the closest person to a child is his mother. In this way, I am helping to bring children and their mothers closer to one another. By helping to create closer relationships between people, we can also help ourselves become closer to God.

Anya Litofsky is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

Appreciating the Journey

2013-axler-craig“For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the House of Israel throughout all their journeys.”

With these words, we conclude reading the Book of Exodus this Shabbat. A book of the Torah that begins in slavery, walled in by the constraints of Egyptian oppression, concludes with the vast Wilderness in front of the Jewish people and the promise of journeys ahead. A book that sets out with the individual names of the children of Israel concludes by speaking of the collective, the House of Israel.

It is significant to point out that the translation here is “journeys” in the plural, not the singular. The final words in Hebrew read b”chol mas”eihem. Our ancestors were led on their journeys by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. There was a visible, even tangible sign of God”s presence and protection, as well as a guide for the path ahead.

Rashi points out that the phrase “in all their journeys” applies not only to the time when the Israelites were on the move, but also to their time of resting. “The place of their encampment is also referred to as a ‘journey.”… Encampments are referred to as journeys because from the place of encampment they traveled again.”

While the Tabernacle, cloud and pillar of fire of our wilderness wanderings came to rest thousands of years ago, the wandering of the Jewish people continues to this day and beyond. It is hard to imagine a place on earth where our people have not passed through — sometimes staying for a relatively short sojourn and sometimes building complex and layered societies. And yet, whether for short or long stays, each place where our people have wandered was only one temporary stage in our collective journey.

“Yalkut Yehudah,” a commentary by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ginsburg, whose journey began in Russia in 1888 and came to an end in Denver in 1946, expounds as such on this verse: “Even when Jews think that they have settled in a place where they have known only peace and tranquility, and they regard it as one where they have finally settled down, ‘that is also known as a journey.” They should bear in mind that this, too, is merely a way station and that they may be forced to wander again.”

There is no doubt that this assessment of Jewish history aptly portrays the often tragic reality of our past. Considering Rabbi Ginsburg”s dates and locations, it can be seen in even more stark lines how the sense of “always having a suitcase packed” would be natural.

However, an additional lesson within this verse on both the individual and collective level is that our journeys are what shape us into the people/nation we become. When recently teaching a group of Christians about the cycle of reading Torah over a year”s span and then immediately beginning again, I was struck by the profound truth that wherever we are in the text, we are always continuing the journey.

As the story of our people continues to unfold, we remind ourselves that “every step of the journey is the journey.”

‘Daniel From Texas’

I sat at my desk munching a sugar-coated doughnut. Mr. Heller, our sixth-grade math teacher, handed our class treats for the 100th Day of School celebration. As I neatly chewed mine, I could see the new kid’s mouth twisting left and right as some powder covered his freckled face and plaid shirt. My friends and I snickered.

“Daniel from Texas makes lots of messes!” one kid blurted in a loud whisper.

Daniel turned around to face me, crumbs still covering his mouth. “Yes?” he queried, his eyes meeting mine.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Oh.” Daniel turned back to face the teacher.

Again my friends snickered. Daniel had been in our class since the first day of school. He walked with a hop to his step. He wore skinny jeans like the rest of us, only his tops never matched the color of his pants. Some of us called him “mental,” thinking that he had problems because he didn’t fit in with the rest of us. None of us chose him to be on our football teams at recess, but he liked to read, so he would sit on the sidelines with his book.

Deep down, I felt sorry for Daniel. He was different.

One day later that month we were out at recess tossing Yosef’s football and just playing around. Daniel came over to the sidelines, as usual reading his latest library book. Suddently, Morty sent the ball flying in Daniel’s direction.

“Daniel from Texas, catch!”

The ball whizzed along, toward Daniel, but it was too late. It hit his head. I saw Daniel lying face up on the ground, his Harry Potter book knocked to one side and blood everywhere.

I was the first to run over and tap him. “Daniel. You OK?” No response.

“Quickly, call a teacher. It’s an emergency!” I screamed.

“This is crazy,” Yosef yelled out. “Oh, here comes Mr. Heller with the nurse and an EMT.”

I told the EMT what had happened and then joined the boys on the sidelines.

“Listen,” I whispered, “let’s promise to be nice to Dan and to change, and maybe we’ll get a second chance.”

The guys agreed, and Morty said, “Sure hope we do.”

I looked up and was relieved to see Daniel standing with the EMT. They decided to take him to the hospital for observation, and our class went inside. The rest of the day everyone was quiet. When Daniel returned to class the next week, the guys circled around him at recess, and they all wanted him on their team.

“I have to take it easy for a couple of weeks,” he replied with a smile. I think Daniel enjoyed the new popularity. “They said I had a concussion, but I’m OK.”

A few guys sat near Daniel and talked with him about his book while the rest of us played catch. And there was no more teasing the rest of the year. None at all. We had learned the hard way the damage it causes.

Note: Hurtful words are called “onas devarim,” and the Torah forbids us from speaking them.

Discussion Questions
1. Might the boys have changed their behavior before the accident?
2. Why can words sometimes hurt more than physical pain?

Danielle Sarah Storch is a local freelance writer. “Shabbat Table Talk” is a monthly
feature synthesizing Torah insights and lessons for children of all ages.

Finding Rest Amid Creation

010314_bergman_nitzan_rabbiWe rest on the Shabbos because G-d rested on Shabbos.

What does this mean?

When G-d created the world he created it ex nihilo, something out of nothing. Before creation there was absolutely nothing besides G-d. With each of the 10 statements of creation (“Let there be light,” etc.), G-d brought our world and everything contained in it into existence. He did this during the six days of creation. On the seventh He rested.

This means that He no longer created anything out of nothing. Now, because no existence beside G-d existed before creation, even after G-d created it, it does not exist by itself, it needs to be constantly maintained in existence. As the Talmud puts it, “The world is not the place of G-d, rather G-d is the place of the world.” Rambam puts it this way, “G-d’s existence is not dependent on any of the creations, but all creations’ existence is constantly dependent on G-d. He is the only true existence.”

Rabbi Dessler compared it to a film projector and the film. As long as the projector light is shining, the film will play on the screen, but should the projector light go out, the characters on the screen do not die, they simply disappear. So too, as long as G-d wills anyone or anything to exist it will exist, but should He stop willing it to exist it would simply disappear. This means that although new things are not appearing all the time, there is a constant creation ex nihilo going on to keep everything in existence.

The creation that we are capable of is ex materia, something out of something. We cannot create or destroy things, we just change their forms.

Obviously, we have no power to create ex nihilo, but we do have the power to create ex material, and so our Shabbos takes the form of resting from this type of creation. To be exact, rest on the Shabbos is defined in this week’s parshah. The parshah is really about the commandment to build the Tabernacle, but it starts with the commandment in which we are warned not to do any melachah, loosely defined as work. The Torah does not explain what this work is; that task is left for the Oral Law.

The Talmud explains that the juxtaposition of the two commandments, to keep Shabbos and to build the Tabernacle, tells us that whatever work was needed to build the Mishkan should not be done on Shabbos. These are the 39 categories of work needed to build the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple. Shabbos is it defined by the Temple because the Temple is a microcosm of the world.

By resting on Shabbos, we are acknowledging that we live in a world created by G-d. Beside what this means historically, it also means that we live in G-d’s constantly created world. We are the characters in G-d’s film and what makes us fascinating is that He created us with free will.

Rabbi Nitzan Bergman is executive director of Etz Chaim: The Center for Jewish Living and Learning and founder and president of the WOW! program for young professionals.