A Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freedman:
(Exodus 31:1-11 and 13 - God to Moses) Build! Weave! Hammer out gold and copper! Carve wood! Work in every sort of craft to make my sanctuary. Akh shabtotai tishmoru, BUT... keep my Shabbes! (God was practicing his Yiddish for future times.)
When I teach people about the tradition of Judaism, and I need to explain what are Mishnah, and Talmud, I say something like: First there was the Torah. Torah has lots of instructions, but they're not always so clear. So the wise, beginning with Moshe, were forced to invent interpretation strategies. The perfect example of an unclear instruction is: 'Don't work on Shabbat!' Great, but what's work? The rabbis seized on this Akh to derive the laws of 'Don't work on Shabbat!' from the actions that crafts-people did to build the tabernacle. Mishnah was the first writing down of efforts to interpret Torah, the two Talmuds, of Israel and of Babylon, were later, more comprehensive efforts."
The rabbis sorted out 39 categories of work that's forbidden on Shabbat. We live in a different place and time, and so our interpretation of Torah is going to be different from theirs. But with them we share at least one idea: to be clear about how important it is to have a day free from labor.
Here's my try at clarifying this for myself. It's a translation I made of the fourth commandment.
Remember the Sabbath day and set it apart to be holy. For six days work and go about your labor, then dedicate the seventh day to YHVH as a sabbatical. Do nothing on it that you consider work - you, your family, your employees, even your animals and your machines. Emulate God, who for six days worked to make heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them, and on the seventh day rested. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
And now, something completely different, Purim is here. Blot out the name of you-know-who, eat more hamentashen than ever you thought you could, read and listen to the silly Megillah, dance, give cute gifts. And give to the poor! My suggestion? Make a contribution to Arm in Arm of Princeton and Trenton. (It used to be called Crisis Ministry.) Mostly they provide a food pantry. They also help the needy with housing and finding employment. Search them at arminarm.org.
A guten Shabbes un a freilichen Purim!