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Rabbi Lisa's Message

March 6, 2024

The majority of this week’s parasha, Vayakhel, is concerned with building the Mishkan, the portable desert tabernacle. However, before any of this work begins, Moses spends a moment, in the opening three verses, reminding the people about Shabbat. The message is brief and serious:

For six days you shall do work, but on the seventh day (on Shabbat) there shall be for you a holy sabbath of complete rest for Adonay. All who do work on it (on Shabbat), shall be put to death. Do not kindle fires in your home on Shabbat.

As quickly as the verses begin, they end. And with that, the parasha continues in great detail about the fantastic construction project at hand. 

An obvious question is why? Why are the three verses about Shabbat here, before the work of the mishkan begins? Why is the consequence for not observing Shabbat so severe? What can we learn from this? How can this ancient message about the importance of Shabbat inform our lives?

Perhaps we can think of Shabbat as something we say yes to, rather than thinking of it as a day of rules and things we are not permitted to do. 

What if we sunk into the essence of Shabbat. Consider these contemporary phrases that convey Shabbat’s central message.

Self care. Me time. Spa day. 

Shabbat is a day to step away from the work of the “regular” week and step into sacred time. In this place, the rhythm is completely different and the focus changes from the secular to the holy. 

Think of Shabbat as “RE” time. A 25 hour period to recharge, refresh, regenerate, regroup, restore.

When we don’t take this time for ourselves, when we are stuck on the work wheel–production, tasks, transactions, check lists–our vitality wanes, our soul withers.

Jewish tradition urges us to care for our souls. Shabbat is the recipe for this care. In a world clamoring for our productive energy, it’s not easy to step away. It takes faith, courage, and chutzpah to say yes to Shabbat. Here’s a poem to inspire you toward YES!

For six days give it all you’ve got. 

Offer your talents and energy to the world.

Produce, create, and churn along with your fellow.

And then . . . 


Let it all fall away.

Step into something gentle, eternal.

Come home to yourself and settle in.

Say yes to Shabbat.

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