Parshat Shabbat Chol Hamoed
2002Parashat Ki Tissa includes both a reminder to the Israelites that in observing Shabbat, they celebrate the covenant between themselves and God. It also contains commandments concerning the observance of Pesach, Shavuot, and again, Shabbat. As we prepare to observe the Shabbat which falls during Pesach, let us consider how the two might be related, examining the writings of Jewish thinkers on the special relationship between Shabbat, Pesach, and even Shavuot.
The Covenant, Shabbat and Pesach
Exodus 34:18, 34:21, 34:22
34:18 You should keep the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you should eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the set time in the month of Aviv, for in the month of Aviv, you came out of Egypt.
34:21 Six days you should work, but on the seventh day, you should rest, in plowing time and in harvest time, you should rest.
34:22 You should observe the Festival of Weeks, even of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of the Ingathering at the turn of the year.
Your Torah Navigator
Before reading the commentators, let us consider the following:
1. Do you find anything unusual or problematic about the grouping of Shabbat, Pesach, and Shavuot? Are there different festivals or holidays that you feel would be more appropriately grouped with Pesach? With Shabbat? With Shavuot?
2. In your own mind, how might these three observances be related?
Philo of Alexandria
"Food, when unleavened is a gift of nature, when leavened, it is a work of art. People, in their eagerness to temper the barely necessary with the pleasant, have learned through practice to soften by art what nature has made hard. Since then, the springtime feast, as I have laid down, is a reminder of the creation of the world - and its earliest inhabitants, children of earth in the first or second generation must have used the gifts of the universe in their unperverted state before pleasure had got the mastery..."
"God commanded cessation of work on Shabbat and holy days, as well as in the culture of the soil, all this "as a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt" and "remembrance of the work of creation." These two things belong together, because they are the outcome of the absolute Divine will, and not the result of accident or natural phenomenon.
Your Medieval Commentators Navigator
1. What connection does Philo of Alexandria see between our observance of Pesach and our connection to the first Shabbat?
2. Judah Halevy uses the word "remember" to link Shabbat and the Exodus from Egypt, because both are events which God specifically commands that we "remember." In addition to the repetition of the word "remember," what links Shabbat and the Exodus from Egypt in the opinion of Judah Halevy? Would the Giving of Torah at Mount Sinai and the observance of Shavuot also fit under the same rubric?
3. Philo of Alexandria sees Pesach as an opportunity to "get back to nature" or become closer to the seven days of creation. He uses unleavened bread as a primary example. Can you think of other ways that Pesach rituals recall for us the seven days of creation?
4. Compare and contrast Judah Halevy's and Philo of Alexandria's interpretations of the relationship between Creation and Redemption from Egypt. Are they mutually exclusive, contradictory, or in complete agreement?
5. Consider the Passover Seder. What elements of the Seder recall for you Creation? Which elements recall the Exodus from Egypt? Which elements recall for you the revelation of Torah? Where in the Seder do we find a promise of ultimate redemption?
The cycle of a Jewish day, a Jewish week, a Jewish year is included in every aspect of appreciation for the miracles of creation, redemption from Egypt, and revelation of Torah. Our daily worship service includes communal praise for these events. The Passover Seder includes elements from and reminders of each of these pivotal moments from Jewish history. The celebration of Shabbat (resting from works of creation), Pesach (redemption from Egypt) and Shavuot (receiving the Law) are inextricably linked. Each celebration is dependent on the other, and contains elements from all three pivotal experiences of the Jewish people. Let the words of our sages inspire us to see the unity of our experiences, and appreciate the ways that our celebration are interconnected. Ultimately, however, let our remembrance of the Seventh Day of Creation, the Exodus from Egypt, and the Revelation of Torah inspire us to work toward the completion of a cycle of redemption, so that we can live in a time when every day will be Shabbat, all peoples will be free from bondage, and the promise of Torah will be not only revealed, but also fulfilled.
Prepared by Rabbi Elena Stein, Director, Hillel at Ohio University, Athens.