The texts we will compare this week may be found on the Sefaria website here: https://www.sefaria.org/texts
This week’s Torah portion, Emor, includes a passage placing Shabbat in the context of the major biblical festivals.
Two better known passages which instruct us about Shabbat are found in the two versions of the 10 Commandments:
and Deuteronomy 5:12-15/https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.5?lang=bi&aliyot=0
The frame of reference for Shabbat in Exodus is God’s resting from the work of God’s Creation, whereas the focus in Deuteronomy is on our liberation from Egyptian servitude. What dimension to our understanding is added by the passage about Shabbat found in this week’s Torah portion? All three passages seem to indicate the same sort of rest from labor. They differ sharply in what sort of labor they have in mind.
For Exodus, the need for a day of rest is to recall and reflect upon God’s work creating the world in six days followed by God’s resting. In Deuteronomy, our resting is a commemoration of the rest from the slave labor we were rescued from by leaving Egypt. What manner of labor relates to the biblical festivals?
The biblical passages about the festivals unfailingly emphasize the harvest aspect of the celebrations. After a season of arduous labor on the farm, celebrations were in order and rest much appreciated. In Exodus, we remember God’s labor for us in creating the world. In Deuteronomy, we rest in recognition of labor forced upon us by others, our masters. In this week’s parsha, we are given the opportunity to rest in appreciation that not only the fruits of our harvests, but the labor itself, is ours.
With the help of God, scientific experts, and political leaders, we look forward to gradually returning to a level of normalcy cautiously, safely, and with a newfound appreciation for work which is ours.