We also observe the Jewish Sabbath. There are 39 categories of activity that are forbidden on the Sabbath. It’s often mistranslated as ‘work’. But that gets things entirely wrong. Flipping on a light switch is forbidden on the Sabbath, but running up and down the stairs a hundred times, is completely permitted, even though the latter is much harder work than the former! The technical term in Jewish law is melechet machshevet and it means something like ‘purposive activity’, and, I think it’s best understood as ‘distinctively human manipulation of the environment’. We refrain from that on the Sabbath, in order to demonstrate, in the language of ritual, that our ability to manipulate the environment is a gift to us from God, on loan to us, so to speak; and to demonstrate our belief that the environment really belongs to God, its creator; and to remember the exodus from Egypt, by refusing to subjugate the world around us, or to be subjugated ourselves into labour (of a certain kind).
The 39 categories of work are derived from the Biblical building of the Tabernacle. It’s building is juxtaposed, in the Bible, with the laws of the Sabbath. Just as God built a world for us to dwell in, we built a Tabernacle for Him to dwell in. Just as God rested from the work that created the world, on the Sabbath; we rest from the work that created the Tabernacle, on the Sabbath.
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
Sabbath and Tabernacle
An interesting discussion of the Sabbath and work, as well as other aspects of Jewish life and practice: