Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Dignity of your work

I was re-reading the chapter on Shabbat from Irving Greenberg's The Jewish Way (an amazing chapter from an amazing book) in preparation for my upcoming "Shabbat Symposium" (starting this Thursday, for all Beth Am-ers reading this...) and was reminded of one of my favorite points which he makes.

Judaism, of course, outlaws work on Shabbat, but being Judaism, we also explore exactly what that means - what work is prohibited? What, exactly, is work? What winds up coming through the discussion is that what is prohibited isn't effort, but rather creation - work which makes us, on some level, imitators of God (who is, of course, the ultimate Creator). That's a longer idea he develops, which you can read all about, if you'd like (or, you can come to "Shabbat Symposium").

The interesting side note which Greenberg makes is that this connection between "work" and "God's creation" has an important implication for most of us. Ask yourself a simple question - is what you do, day-to-day, prohibited on Shabbat? If it is, then that means that your day-to-day work must be, on some level, like God's creative work. Holy work.

In other words, if only holy work is prohibited, and your work is prohibited, then your work is holy work.

Do you teach? Do you clean floors? Do you repair computers? Do you do office work? On some level, all of that work is holy, or else it would forbidden on Shabbat.

Whether or not you decide to observe those prohibitions isn't the point (or, at least, isn't the only point). On some level, Shabbat, and the laws of Shabbat, are challenging us to see the sacred in what we all do, day by day.

If you can't do it on Saturday, then it must be holy, today.

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