The Roadmap of Shabbat

June 8, 2018

We seem to be all about roadmaps at the moment at the JCC. Last Wednesday evening, we had our annual meeting . . . . and the theme was roadmaps. We’ve created a new strategic plan which we’re thinking of as a roadmap. Roadmaps tell us where we’re going . . . and they also tell us where we’ve come from. They tell us what to expect, but sometimes while we’re following a roadmap, the unexpected happens.

In 1965, a group of young Jews published “The Jewish Catalogue.” It was a ground-breaking concept: a do-it-yourself guide to the rituals and celebrations of Jewish life for young radicals who were trying to recapture an authentic Jewish life free of dogma. It explained how to participate in the ceremonies of Judaism without stigma. So . . . back in 1965, in the chapter of the Jewish Catalogue by Rabbi Zalman Shachter Shalomi, you could find a roadmap of the Shabbat! Reb Zalman pointed out that there seems to be a discrepancy between the Biblical books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus, we are told to “Remember” the Sabbath, yet in Deuteronomy, we are told to “Observe” the Shabbat. Reb Zalman explained that it’s all about the roadmap of Shabbat. His famous diagram is exactly that roadmap.

According to Rabbi Zalman, the commandment to “observe” the Sabbath takes preparation. We spend the days from Wednesday to Friday preparing and setting ourselves up so that we can have a Shabbat. Since we can’t blot out all at once all our work, our weekday thoughts, and habits, it takes a gradual letting go of the work week way of life. Wednesday to Friday, then, is all about blotting out the week, and preparing a roadmap to the Sabbath. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, on the other hand, are back in the work week. They become significant, however, because they belong to the past Shabbat. We fondly remember the Sabbath in an attempt to extend the holiness of the Sabbath and carry it with us. Thus, according to Rabbi Zalman’s roadmap, Shabbat is in the middle of the week rather than at the end: three days preparing for the Shabbat, then one day of Sabbath rest, than three days of bringing the sanctity of the Shabbat with you as you enter the work week.

Shabbat Shalom