The Gift of Shabbat

In Parashat Bereishit, we are told that “God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). What does it mean that God created people in “God’s image”? What responsibility do we have to ourselves, to our community, and to God knowing that each of us reflects the image of the Divine?

First, we know that since we are created in the image of God we have the responsibility to care for ourselves, just as we care for inanimate ritual objects. A siddur or humash is treated with the utmost respect and honor. For if a siddur or humash were to fall, one would not hesitate to reach down, pick up the siddur, and kiss it. We desire to show proper respect to texts that we consider sacred. How much more so should we treat ourselves with respect.

Second, we have the ability to reflect God in our daily interactions with family and friends. A midrash teaches how we can walk in God’s ways. Just as God is gracious and compassionate, so too we must be gracious and compassionate. Just as God is loving, so too we must be loving (Sifre on Parashat Ekev). These attributes of compassion and grace which we just recited multiple times during the High Holidays give us a compelling model for interacting with one another.

Finally, we are able to model God’s own behavior. Immediately after God created the first humans and instructed them on how to function amidst the other creations in the world, we read, “on the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done” (Genesis 2:1-3).

In his book The Sabbath, Heschel illustrates how Shabbat is a gift that God gave to us on the seventh day of creation. Just as God worked and only then created and blessed Shabbat, so too we work and then create and bless Shabbat. We have the ability each week to bring Shabbat into our lives. By doing so we will have the opportunity to treat ourselves to the rest that we need, interact with our family and friends in a way that reflects a sacred interaction, and finally honor God and the Shabbat in a way that is truly divine.

With wishes for a good week and Shabbat Shalom.

Rachel Ain

The publication and distribution of the JTS KOLLOT: Voices of Learning commentary has been made possible by a generous gift from Sam and Marilee Susi