IDF soldier dons tefillin (phylacteries). (Liba Farkash/Flash90) (Liba Farkash/Flash90)
IDF soldier dons tefillin

Being Jewish is a 24/7 affair. Not merely in the synagogue, but also in the home, even when nobody is around.

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion (in Israel!) is “Emor” (Leviticus 21:1 -24:23), and in it we find two primary components. The first section deals with the Kohanim, those of the “Priestly lineage,” especially regarding their rights and obligations.

There are many such people today (roughly 5-10% in of every synagogue congregation), and these Biblical rights and obligations apply to them even nowadays. The other major section of this week’s reading deals with the annual holiday cycle, which is what I will discuss in this week’s article.

The first holiday that the Torah mentions is observed every week – Shabbat, the Sabbath, a true “holy day.” Indeed, the wording in the Torah emphasizing the observance of Shabbat has piqued the interest of the commentators. While in connection to all other holidays, the Torah merely tells us that they must be observed, that one may not work on those day, that certain precepts must be fulfilled, etc., regarding Shabbat the Torah commands us to “observe the Sabbath in all your residences!”

Why does the Torah tell us to keep Shabbat “at home?” Would we think that the holiday, or any rules of the Torah for that matter, need only be observed in the synagogue?

It is explained that this emphasis – “at home/in your residences” – is for those who believe that they must observe their Jewish practice only in the synagogue or at other community environments. For example, there are many fine people who enjoy going to synagogue services Saturday morning – they find the service enjoyable and inspiring, and the rabbi’s sermon gives them the opportunity for a nap. After services come the refreshements. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning! But when they come home, they hit the television, phones and internet, as if it were a regularly day. Such activities are forbidden on Shabbat. On Shabbat we withdraw from modern life and the routines of the six-day work week. Unfortunately, these people need the reminder that even outside the synagogue, where there is no rabbi or community watching, the Shabbat must be observed nonetheless.

Being Jewish really is lots of fun, and Jewish life, especially the Sabbath, is full of meaning, rituals – and great food! As such, people like participating in the “easy stuff” but avoid the “hard stuff,” Granted, it’s not easy to completely withdraw from all our ringing-and-pinging gadgets, but doing so makes life in general, and the Sabbath in particular, that much more rewarding.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.

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