[Remarks, mostly as delivered, opening a Lêyl Šabâth service at Congregation Kol Ami; Šabâth Mišpât.im 5777 / 24 February 2017]
We need this, we mortals, we distinct and limited beings in time.
We need sleep between waking. We need to start things and end things. We need to set things down and pick them back up. And in between we need rest. How much and how often and how long varies among us, and for each of us under different circumstance.
Against the need for rest some duty or desire always calls. But our covenant requires us to refrain. Six days you shall serve and do all your task. But the seventh day is a šabâth, a great rest, to ’Adhonây your God: you shall not do any task — you, and your son and your daughter, and the man who works for you and the woman who works for you, and your beast of burden, and the stranger who is within your gate.
Shabbos is a gift. Like all gifts it requires us to receive it. But key to Shabbos is that list of others. I have to let myself rest, but I have to let everyone else rest too, or it doesn’t work. Because our needs for rest vary and change, there are weeks Shabbos surely feels like a luxury or an impediment — or an afterthought. But every week someone gets this far and really shouldn’t go any further without a break.
So let’s take a few moments of quiet to start receiving and sharing the gift. Let this week go. We can meet the next by starting a new chapter instead of being stuck in the last one.