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    Marking or making Shabbat? – Ki Tissa

    There is a famous verse that begins, V’sham’ru v’nei Yisra’el et haShabbat, “The Children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath” (Ex. 31:16). We know the words by heart because they figure in the Shabbat prayers and especially in the Shabbat morning Kiddush.

    But we need to be reminded of how the verse continues: la’asot et haShabbat l’dorotam b’rit olam, “To observe the Sabbath throughout their generations for an eternal covenant”.

    The way we ensure that Shabbat will continue throughout the generations is to observe it, to carry out its practices and observances – not just to mark it as a date in the calendar but to commit ourselves to it in every way. In that fashion Shabbat will survive and so will we.

    The point is actually made in the Hebrew but generally missed in the English. The text says, la’asot et haShabbat – literally, “to make the Sabbath”. And making Shabbat does not begin on Friday night at sunset but in mid-week when we start to plan, shop and prepare for the day.

    Nor does it end on Saturday night when it gets dark; it lingers until the cusp of the week when the countdown from this Shabbat gives way to the lead-in to next Shabbat. In this way we make Shabbat, and Shabbat makes the week.

    Sometimes the word Shabbat actually means “week” (e.g. Lev. 23:16), and in the sense in which we have been describing the day, the whole week is a Sabbath observance and no day is without its thoughts of Shabbat.

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