The New Shul

Parshat Yitro

The fourth of the Ten Commandments, which we read in this week’s parashah, begins: “Six days you shall labor and do all of your work, but the seventh day is Shabbat for YHWH your God.” The authors of an ancient midrash focused on the word “all.” They asked, how is it possible to do all of our work in six days? Isn’t there always more to do? What did the Torah mean, then, when it said that we should finish all of our work before Shabbat?

What the Torah meant, according to the authors of the midrash, is that we should rest on Shabbat as if all of our work were done.

On the surface, that answer seems strange. Were the rabbis asking us to turn Shabbat into a game of make-believe, to act as if something were true when we know that it is not?

There is another possibility. Perhaps what they meant is that, on Shabbat, we are to look at the world in a different way – not to deny reality, but to pay attention to a different aspect of it. We are to focus not on the things that are lacking in the world – even glaringly lacking – but on the things that are already whole and complete, even if they may be harder to see. Instead of looking with anxiety at all the things about the world that are in need of fixing, we are to look with gratefulness at the blessings that are already here in front of us, and which no amount of human effort could improve upon. When we do that, we feel as if our work is done.

On this Shabbat, and every Shabbat, may we aspire to that kind of rest.

  • Due to the Covid pandemic, The New Shul’s Shabbat morning service now takes place outdoors and off-site (rain or shine), on the grounds of the Sandpiper School, 6724 E. Hearn Rd, from 9:30 to 11:30 am on Saturday mornings. Please use the west parking lot and come around the back of the school. Everyone is welcome (for social-distancing purposes, you might want to bring your own chair). Please dress for warmth and comfort. Informal attire is fine.
  • The kiddush this Shabbat, February 6, is sponsored by Marty and Denise Fried.
  • Other than our Shabbat morning service, all other New Shul events continue online. They include: Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday afternoons (4:30 pm this Friday), Havdalah (6:45 pm this Saturday night), daily text study, and weekly classes. Please contact us for the Zoom link.