Friday, March 20, 2009

A Ditty of a D'Var.

In this week's parshah, Vayak'hel-Pekudei, after all the turmoil and frustration of the Golden Calf incident, Moses' first word to the people is on keeping the Sabbath. This seems odd, almost outlandish. The people commit this great misstep, and they're looking for some reassurance and comfort from Moses on G-d's love for the people and what does Moses say? "These are the things that he Lord commanded to make. Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to the Lord" (Exodus 35:1-2).

I'm reminded of something I wrote after the interesting Shabbaton I attended back in November in Crown Heights, about the prescription "a leap of faith." In that blog post, I wrote that unlike in some other religions, because Judaism is very action-based, to be Jewish requires a "leap of action" more than a leap of faith. Zalman Posner, on, iterates a similar idea, I think.
Judaism's shield against assimilation, the guarantor of Israel's integrity, is not its theology but its devotion to observance of mitzvot, carrying out G-d's will in daily living. Israel's ability to withstand the golden calves of all sorts is embodied in the tefillin and Shabbat and dietary laws that make Torah as much a part of life as eating and making a living. Devotion to Judaism can be developed only through using Judaism, living it. Throughout history we have seen that Jews who lived Judaism, lived; those who neglected its observance, despite earnestly professed warm feelings and love for its ideals, were ultimately lost to our people.
Posner also suggests that the constant refrain of Torah, threaded throughout the five books is that "not expounding is important, but deed."

I'd never thought about this before (though I can't seem to find any prior d'varim on it that I've written, though I know I have), and it's only in the first few lines of the parshah, but it's significant. It's a reminder that one cannot just "be" Jewish, one must "live" Jewish. There's more to being Jewish than just saying you are, right?

As we approach another Shabbat (though not for many, many more hours thanks to this crazy time change), keep the idea of living Jewish in your mind. How do you live Jewish? Belief is a part of being Jewish, but as with many things, it takes action to develop passion.

Shabbat Shalom! And don't forget that today is Shabbat Across America! Head to shul, meet some folks, get your Jew on!