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Parshios Vayakhel & Pekudei

Shabbos Will Cure This Ill!

By Rabbi Label Lam

Moshe called the whole community of the Children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: "These are the things that HASHEM commanded to make: Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to HASHEM; whoever performs work on it [this day] shall be put to death. You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day." (Shemos 35:1-3)

You shall not kindle fire: Some of our Rabbis say that [the prohibition of] kindling was singled out for a [mere] negative commandment, while others say that it was singled out to separate [all types of labor]. -[from Shab. 70a] The prohibition against kindling a fire is employed here as an example so that we can learn from it all the other forbidden activities of Shabbos. Using the written Torah as a self-referential dictionary we can infer the definition of Malachah-“work”here in these few verses. We dare not come to the wrong conclusion that this is the only thing not permitted to do on Shabbos. Still we can ask why fire is singled out as the exemplar “work” not allowed on the Holy Shabbos!

I once heard that besides the Hallachic – implications against light a fire there is a hint here that one should not become angry on Shabbos!That would be equivalent to lighting a fire, metaphorically speaking. There is an equation of values as told to us by our sages. Keeping the Shabbos is equal to keeping the entire Torah. Violating Shabbos is like worshipping idols. Anyone who becomes angry is considered to have worshipped an idol. We can detect some strong comparison between anger and violating Shabbos! How does it work?

I find myself in school constantly counseling little kids and big kids too on the solitary notion of “taking personal responsibility”. The conversations are hauntingly similar if not exactly the same. “Why are you here in my office? Were you in fight? What did you do? Did you hit him?” The answer always begins with something like the words, “Well he called me a name… he looked at me… he pushed me first…” I always redirect the telling of the story. “I asked you what you did!” Then the persistent response again is, “but he….” It sometimes takes dozens of tries before we are able to calmly zero in on what the perpetrator himself did. “So he made you hit him? Is that what you are telling me? Who speaks out of your mouth? Who moves your hands?” After a moment of confusion, “I do!” “Aha! So how can he make you hit him? You gave yourself permission to hit him or you decided to let yourself become angry by what he said!” It’s not so easy for we adults either!

One boy told me today he hit a kid because he pushed him. I agreed that his pushing is not nice and I understand how you might feel that way but pushing someone does not have to produce an angry response. I told him I can prove it. I know a fellow who got a giant shove from a total stranger and he did not get even a little angry. Just the opposite, he thanked him.

My friend, Chaim was making a coffee in the back of a 7-11 in Nanuet New York when this fellow came over and really gave him a shove. My friend, a bulky and somewhat macho guy went flying. Moments later a car crashed through the window of the store and embedded there where Chaim had been standing. The fellow saw the car coming and not having time to explain reacted heroically. That push saved his life. It’s not the push! It’s the meaning or the interpretation of the push!

Working six days may just delude us into thinking that we’re doing; we’re making this old world spin. Then comes Shabbos! The hammer is parked. We are able to behold in the quietude of Shabbos the awe in things large and small. One who gets angry makes himself the boss of reality. His interpretation of what people mean by what they say and do rules supreme. Others violate his rules! So by reframing Shabbos will cure this ill.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and

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