A version of this article originally appeared in the Texas Jewish Post
The man sitting across from me at the pizza shop was a religiously liberal individual for sure but also very much a person who wore his Judaism on his sleeve and whose life was dedicated to promoting Jewish values as he understood them. We were meeting to get to know each other and to share our personal stories and communal goals with each other.
In between bites of pizza he shared with me his philosophy on Jewish practice, one he knew I stood in strong opposition to. I follow the moral commandments of the Torah, was the way he put it. It was code for, only part of the Torah remains relevant in this day and age. Thou shalt not kill and love your neighbor as yourself still led the moral way, but the kosher dietary laws or the command to don tefillin (phylacteries) daily had long ago lost their spiritual value and resonance in daily Jewish practice.
What about Shabbat? I asked him. Do you consider Shabbat a moral commandment?
I knew he did not keep the laws of Shabbat and was curious as to what he would say about the place of this most central of commandments.
Hmm I cant say Ive thought about that one, he replied, but, I dont think that I would categorize Shabbat as a moral commandment.
It was hard for me to fathom, but in but one short statement, uttered after a short moment of consideration, Shabbat, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, had been wiped clean from my friends Jewish hard drive, and so, he believed, should it be discarded from the rest of the Jewish peoples national consciousness.
I couldnt help but wonder if my pizza-mate recognized the ramification of his philosophy. He was surely aware of what the great Hebrew essayist Achad Haam (1856-1927) had to say on the subject: More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews. And as Judith Shulevitz writes so beautifully in the Forward (Remember the Sabbath, 2010), What he [Achad Haam] meant goes well beyond Jewish survivalism. He meant that the regulation of time through the laws of the Sabbath gave the Jews the chance to regroup in communities at the end of every week, and that that regrouping sustained their Jewish identity.
Even if Shabbat were to be categorized as a ritual commandment alone, does the Shabbat not act, then, as a sort of Jewish preservative, ensuring that the totality of the Jewish world-vision remain intact?
What did he think would become of a Jewish people for whom the Shabbat had become nothing more than a piece of national nostalgia, something a modern Jew could read about in history books or glimpse in old broadcasts of Fiddler on the Roof?
More than that, it felt important at that moment to illustrate the fruitlessness of an endeavor to categorize the Torahs commands into those that had moral bearing and those that did not. For as much as the Torah itself groups certain commandments as chukim (commandments whose rationale is hidden) and certain commandments as mishpatim (commandments whose rationale is obvious), the Torah never suggests that any of its commandments are free of moral constitution.
It would be the mitzvah of the Shabbat, then, that would serve as the example for my lunch date that robust moral DNA lies in every one of the Torahs commandments, both the chukim and the mishpatim.
Imagine the newly freed slave-nation that was the early Israelites, I implored my lunch-mate to consider.
They had been long been indoctrinated by their Egyptian taskmasters that their sole worth lied in their economic contributions to society. A man who worked long hard hours building storehouses for the Pharaoh had worth, but a sick or elderly individual confined to their bed was not worthy of the sustenance it took to keep them alive.
The command to rest on the seventh day of the week, was not only an invitation to dedicate a day of the week to the more important things in life, like faith, family and self, it was a national re-education of sorts. The Sabbath was G-ds way of letting His people know that their worth was not tied to their workload or any other metric of personal productivity. The fact that they were endowed with a divine soul, created in the image of the Almighty Himself, was reason enough for every person to be treated with respect and worthy of honor.
If thats not a mitzvah laced with great moral instruction for mankind, I said, I dont know what is?
My friend shrugged. I had never thought of it that way, he said.
I dont know if the lesson I shared that day changed my friends mind or perspective on Judaisms place in the modern world, but its a point that needed to be said and must continue to be shared in a world increasingly adrift from the commandments.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.
The Forward's independent journalism depends on donations from readers like you.
Read more here:
- How to avoid the end times - The Japan Times - March 24th, 2020
- Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two) - CounterPunch - February 27th, 2020
- Veteran Analyst Warns of XRP Crash to $0.20 as Price Stumbles - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- XRP Could Be on Verge of Explosive Breakout Higher, Taking It 100% Higher - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- XRP Just Flipped a Key Resistance Into Support: Why This is Bullish - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- Ripple Is On The Verge Of A New Rally According To Analysts - Somag News - February 27th, 2020
- West Ham need something drastic to kickstart a revival they might not get it in the Premier League - FourFourTwo - January 25th, 2020
- Lost in Space Season 3 Releasing on Netflix and Dr. Smith Will Return - Honk News - January 25th, 2020
- When Is Lost In Space Season 3 Coming Out On Netflix And Dr. Smith Returning Possibilities - The Digital Wise - January 25th, 2020
- The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 1/15/20: Survivalism - UPROXX - January 18th, 2020
- Bitcoin Indicator That Called Rally to $14000 Flashes Again - BTCNN - January 18th, 2020
- Bitcoin just cracked $8,500, and it means bulls are taking control - CryptoSlate - January 18th, 2020
- Ethereum Forms a Bearish Rejection Just Below a Key Resistance Level - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- The Explosion In This One Metric Is Bullish for Bitcoins Price - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- Why An Analyst Thinks XRP Price Has Further to Fall - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- Would a Virginia bill really ban dads from teaching sons how to use hunting rifles? - PolitiFact - December 18th, 2019
- Amazon's holiday gift to Orlando's sci-fi fans is a revitalized season of 'The Expanse' - Orlando Weekly - December 13th, 2019
- Market Experts Weigh in on the Next Major Mergers & Acquisitions in Media - Observer - November 21st, 2019
- A brief history of John Krasinski's transformation into a guy who absolutely loves the CIA - Business Insider - November 21st, 2019
- Richard Tobin of Brooklawn accused of conspiring to initimidate minorities - Courier Post - November 21st, 2019
- The Terminator Created a New Kind of Hero With Kyle Reese - Yahoo Entertainment - October 27th, 2019
- Bitcoin Might Head To The $6,000 Region In The Near-Term According to Wyckoff Logic - ZyCrypto - October 17th, 2019
- Low Tide Review: The Goonies Meets The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Sharp Coming-of-Age Thriller - IndieWire - October 4th, 2019
- As the climate collapses, we can either stand together or perish alone - The Guardian - October 4th, 2019
- Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna by Kate Boyes - Locus Online - October 4th, 2019
- Oregon 'Hate Map' Reveals 11 Racist, Separatist Hate Groups In The State - Patch.com - August 18th, 2017
- Doomsday Desperation - Southern Poverty Law Center - August 18th, 2017
- 'American Made' Review: Tom Cruise Flies Between Comedy and Tension, Missing Both - TheWrap - August 18th, 2017
- North Korea: Nuclear War Fears Spur Sales of Preparedness Goods ... - Fortune - August 14th, 2017
- For Doomsday Preppers, the End of the World Is Good for Business - New York Times - August 13th, 2017
- Film Review: Good Time - Consequence of Sound (blog) - August 13th, 2017
- What I Learned From the Neo-Nazi in My Prison Book Club | The ... - The Marshall Project - August 11th, 2017
- Nine Inch Nails - Webster Hall, New York City - Gigs - Reviews ... - Soundblab - August 11th, 2017
- Film Review: The Glass Castle Fails on Almost Every Level - Splice Today - August 11th, 2017
- If North Korea targets Guam, how should the US respond? - Fox News - August 11th, 2017
- Naked - slantmagazine - August 10th, 2017
- Noir Thriller Wind River Examines An Ignored America - Willamette Week - August 10th, 2017
- Silicon Valley luminaries are busily preparing for when robots take ... - Mashable - August 10th, 2017
- Review: Nolan's 'Dunkirk' is as Riveting as it is Groundbreaking - First Showing (blog) - July 23rd, 2017
- Do you Have What it Takes to be a Christian Survivalist? - CBN News - July 19th, 2017
- Morning Star :: No growth but lots of opportunities | The People's Daily - Morning Star Online - July 19th, 2017
- 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Review: Finale of biblical proportions - Rappler - July 18th, 2017
- Queued Up: 'The Lego Batman Movie,' 'XX,' 'Logan,' and More - Aquarian Weekly - July 12th, 2017
- Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes - Consequence of Sound (blog) - July 11th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ... - Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - July 8th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ineffably creepy - Norwich Evening News - July 8th, 2017
- DJ CherishTheLuv, Music Missionary - HuffPost - June 30th, 2017
- What it Means to Finish Pikes Peak + Results - Hot Rod Network - Hot Rod Network - June 29th, 2017
- 'It Comes at Night' a Spellbinding Tale of Family and Survival - Shepherd Express - June 29th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Charleston Express - June 26th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Arkansas News - June 25th, 2017
- Where billionaires are stockpiling land for the apocalypse: Map - The Real Deal Magazine - June 19th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - Business Insider Nordic - June 17th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - SFGate - June 15th, 2017
- Billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse here's where they're going - The Advocate - June 15th, 2017
- Next "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana - KRTV Great Falls News - June 11th, 2017
- Veteran teaches disaster preparation skills at Heights library - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 10th, 2017
- It Comes At Night stars on survivalism, the apocalypse - WDEF News 12 - June 9th, 2017
- Recently unveiled documents reveal anarchist strand festered at Evergreen for nearly a decade - The College Fix - June 9th, 2017
- Margaret Atwood on the utopias hiding inside her dystopias and why there is no the future - Vox - June 9th, 2017
- Humanity 2.0: The Unstoppability of Singularity - HuffPost - June 8th, 2017
- Upcoming "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KTVQ Billings News - June 6th, 2017
- Survivalist shares experience in Harker Heights - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 5th, 2017
- Click Your Hiking Boots Together: Oz Farm Is NorCal's Eco ... - 7x7 - June 3rd, 2017
- You'll Find Far Cry 5 ProvocativeEven if It's a Mess - WIRED - June 1st, 2017
- 'Alien: Covenant' and the Nature of Horror - Film School Rejects - June 1st, 2017
- Via 'The Florida Project,' meet two of the youngest stars in Cannes Film Festival history - Los Angeles Times - June 1st, 2017
- Alien 3 is far from the worst Alien movie. In fact, it's pretty great. - Vox - Vox - May 23rd, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Grand Forks Herald - May 14th, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Duluth News Tribune - May 11th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - The Bozeman Daily Chronicle - May 9th, 2017
- Homesteading and Survivalism Living a simple life - May 6th, 2017
- On Ketamine and Added Value - E-Flux - May 6th, 2017
- A Memorial Day Festival for Colorado's Most Famous Cannibal - 5280 | The Denver Magazine - May 4th, 2017
- Learning Survival Skills - Mother Earth News - April 30th, 2017
- Seedship Review The best parts of Sci-Fi - A 90s Kid - April 30th, 2017
- Vanishing: Where Is The Music Of The Impending Apocalypse? - The Quietus - April 27th, 2017
- Community pays tribute to 102nd anniversary of Armenian Genocide - Twin Falls Times-News - April 25th, 2017
- To Sunderland owner Ellis Short - this is for you - Roker Report (blog) - April 25th, 2017
- Did the Movie-Theater Audience Ruin Personal Shopper for Me? - New York Magazine - April 23rd, 2017