2001 Exodus 13:17-17:16
Shabbat is a Verb
In our parasha this week our people have left Pharaoh's shackles of slavery and have escaped toward freedom. As we flee, the sea opens up and God lets us cross, killing the Egyptians behind us. Now we are wandering the wilderness, and God provides us with food, called manna, to satisfy us. Moses explains that we will be provided with manna for six days, with a special portion for Shabbat. He says:
25. "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath of YHWH; you will not find it today on the plain.
26. Six days you shall gather it; on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none."
27. Yet some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found nothing.
28. And YHWH said to Moses, "How long will you [people] refuse to obey My commandments and My teachings?
29. Mark that YHWH has given you the Sabbath; therefore God gives you two days' food on the sixth day. Let everyone remain where he is: let no [person] leave his place on the seventh day."
30. So the people remained inactive on the seventh day.
Your Torah Navigator
1. What happened to the manna on the seventh day?
2. What provisions for Shabbat are made ahead of time -- on the sixth day?
3. In verse 30, the verb is v'yishbitu, literally, "they Shabbat-ed," or "they observed Shabbat." What does it mean to "observe Shabbat?"
4. 4. How do you observe Shabbat?
Midrash Rabbah 25:12
Rabbi Levi (said): If Israel kept the Sabbath properly even for one day, the son of David would come. Why? Because it is equivalent to all the commandments; for so it says, "For You are our God, and we are the people of Your pasture, and the flock of Your hand. To-day if you would but hearken
to God's voice!" (Psalms 95:7). Rabbi Johanan said: The Holy One, blessed be God, told Israel: "Though I have set a definite term for the millennium which will come at the appointed time whether Israel returns to Me in penitence or not, still if they repent even for one day, I will bring it
before its appointed time." Hence, "To-day [our redemption comes] if you would but hearken to God's voice"; and just as we find that the son of David will come as a reward for the observance of all commandments [one day], so also will he come for the observance of one Sabbath day, because the Sabbath is equivalent to all commandments.
Your Midrash Navigator
1. Why does Rabbi Levi say that keeping Shabbat will bring the Messiah?
2. How does he deduce that keeping Shabbat is equal to all of the commandments?
3. What does it mean to keep Shabbat?
4. How does Rabbi Levi's statement inform your own Shabbat observance?
In the wilderness, our ancestors were very wary about Shabbat. It was difficult for them to believe that if they stopped their daily gathering of manna on the sixth day, that there would still be manna left for them for Shabbat. It was difficult to cease their work for an entire day. Like the
Israelites, many of us have a difficult time ceasing our daily work in order to celebrate Shabbat. Many find it difficult to leave work unattended each Saturday in order to take a day to rest. And yet, we find that when we do cease our gathering, the world still turns on its axis, the sun still shines, and life continues. And most of all, rest is a healthy and even holy experience. Rabbi Levi's message is a hopeful one for us. That in a time in which all of Israel is able to "Shabbat" -- that is "to make Shabbat" -- we will be ready for a messianic age: a time of peace, of wholeness and of goodness in our world. Shabbat Shalom.
Prepared by Rabbi Andrea Lerner, Midwest Director of Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning Hillel at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.