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Carpe Diem!

What Can We Accomplish After Millenia of Great People Doing Great Things?

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    1542 views
  • October 15, 2020
  • |
  • 27 Tishrei 5781
  • Comment

Class Summary:

The contradiction is striking. On the one hand the Torah states that G-d "abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Yet the very same verse declares that "G-d completed His work on the seventh day," meaning that He completed the work on the seventh, not on the sixth, day?

The Midrash and Rashi offer the following explanation. G-d knows the exact moment when Friday merges into Shabbos, and therefore, on the first Friday of creation, He continued His work throughout the entire day, until the end of the very last moment before the Shabbos began.

But why? What was the purpose of G-d working all the way till Shabbos and making it appear that He is "violating" the holy day? What compelled G-d to give off this false impression that He was laboring on the Shabbos? And why would the Torah be interested is relating this detail to us?

לזכות עטיא רבקה בת צבי'ה לרפואה שלימה וקרובה

"I do not expect from you to refrain from sin because of a lack of interest in sin; I want you to abstain from sin because of a lack of time for it.”
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kutzk, to his disciples.

"The world says, 'Time is money.' I say, 'Time is life.'"
—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to my father, Gershon Jacobson, in 1985.

Cheating on the Shabbos?

The marvelous invention of the Shabbos, a day in which we put our stressful lives on hold and dedicate a day to our souls, loved ones, and spiritual growth, is introduced in this week’s portion, the opening section of the Torah.

"And G-d saw all that He had made [during the six days of creation], and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus, the heaven and the earth were completed, and all their array. G-d completed, on the seventh day, His work, which He had done, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He ceased from all His work."[1]

The contradiction is striking. On the one hand the Torah states that G-d "abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done; G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He ceased from all His work." This would mean that G-d completed His work on the sixth day, followed by a day of rest. Yet the very same verse declares that "G-d completed His work on the seventh day," meaning that He completed the work on the seventh, not on the sixth, day.

Divine Punctuality

The Midrash and Rashi offer the following explanation:[2]

A human being, incapable of determining the precise moment of nightfall, can’t establish the exact moment when Friday ends and Saturday begins. Therefore, Jewish law obligates us to begin observing the Shabbos a short while before it begins. G-d, on the other hand, knows the exact moment when Friday merges into Shabbos, and therefore, on the first Friday of creation, He continued His work throughout the entire day, until the end of the very last moment before the Shabbos began. Since G-d would not cease building His world until the moment that Shabbos began, it appeared as if He completed His work on the Shabbos day itself. Because of this appearance, the verse states that G-d completed His work "on the seventh day," since that is how it looked from a human vantage point.[3]

But why? What was the purpose of G-d working all the way till Shabbos and making it appear that He is "violating" the holy day? What compelled G-d to give off this false impression that He was laboring on the Shabbos? And why would the Torah be interested is relating this detail to us?

Cherish the Moment

It is here that we are presented with one of the important contributions of Judaism to civilization: the value of time.

For six full days G-d created a universe that is extraordinary in its magnitude and grandeur. During this week, the Creator fashioned a cosmos of endless mystery and limitless depth. One could not conceive of a more accomplished and successful week. Following such a fruitful and productive work week, as the sixth day was winding down, G-d had the full right to sit back and enjoy His grand achievement.

Comes the Torah and declares—no! As long as there was even one moment remaining during which the building of a world can continue, G-d would not stop.

How to Manage Your Time

We, too, are builders of the world, in the lovely Talmudic phrase, “partners of the Divine in the work of creation.”[4] G-d built a physical world out of Divine energy; our job is to build spiritual energy out of a physical world; to transform the universe into a moral and sacred space, saturated with light and goodness.

Comes the Torah and teaches that even if you have already employed your strengths to build a beautiful world; even if you have affected many people, ignited many hearts, and touched many souls, as long as you have the capacity to construct one more heart, inspire one more soul, empower one more mind, and transform one more individual—do no cease from the sacred work.

 

G-d continues to fashion His world up to, and including, the last possible moment, in order to teach us: Carpe Diem! Every moment of life contains infinite value. If there is still one human being you can touch, do not desist.

Sometimes, you may have accomplished so much during your life, and you feel that it is time to slow down. Comes the Torah and says: If you still have life in your bones, and there is one soul for whom you can make a difference—do not stop.

The Final Blow

What is more, the Torah emphasizes that "On the seventh day G-d completed His work." The work G-d had done during the final moments of the sixth day brought to completion all the amazing work of the six preceding days.

The same is true in our individual lives. The work you do in the final moments of your “week,” may seem small and insignificant, relative to all the great things you did earlier. But in actuality, these final acts may be the ones that complete your life’s mission. You never know the full significance of a singular act.

Just as this is true in each of our personal lives, it also holds true about all of history. Our generation, as the sixth millennium is winding down, has been compared in Jewish texts to the "Friday" afternoon of history,[5] moments before the Shabbos of history arrives. We may often view our daily involvement in acts of kindness, in the study of Torah and observance of Mitzvos as inconsequential in the big picture. After millennia of great people doing great things, what can I, a small person, already accomplish?

In truth, however, it is the small and ordinary things that we do in our lives today that grant completion to 6,000 years of love, commitment, and sacrifice. It is our “final touch” that will turn the world into a G-dly place and bring redemption to our turbulent planet.

We are the fortunate ones to bring it all to completion.[6]

___________________________

[1] Genesis 1:31; 2:1-2.

[2] Bereishis Rabah 10:9. Rashi to Genesis 2:2. Cf. Rashi to Megilah 9a.

[3] Cf. Likkutei Sichos vol. 5 pp. 24-33, where it is demonstrated that Rashi's view is that G-d actually completed the work at the first moment of the seventh day; yet it was a type of work that is permitted on the Shabbos (See there for a full-fledged presentation of this fascinating idea.)

[4] Shabbos 119b

[5] See Ramban to Genesis 1:1; Or Hachaim beginning of Parshas Tzav. Cf. Sefer Hasichos 5750 p. 254 and references noted there as well as Sefer Hasichos 5749 p. 477

[6] This essay is based on a talk delivered by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Shabbas Parshas Bereishis 5728, October 28, 1967. The talk is published in Likkutei Sichos vol. 5 pp. 24-35; Sichos Kodesh 5728 pp. 114-115.

Please leave your comment below!

    Essay Bereishis

    Rabbi YY Jacobson
    • October 15, 2020
    • |
    • 27 Tishrei 5781
    • |
    • 1542 views
    • Comment

    לזכות עטיא רבקה בת צבי'ה לרפואה שלימה וקרובה

    Class Summary:

    The contradiction is striking. On the one hand the Torah states that G-d "abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Yet the very same verse declares that "G-d completed His work on the seventh day," meaning that He completed the work on the seventh, not on the sixth, day?

    The Midrash and Rashi offer the following explanation. G-d knows the exact moment when Friday merges into Shabbos, and therefore, on the first Friday of creation, He continued His work throughout the entire day, until the end of the very last moment before the Shabbos began.

    But why? What was the purpose of G-d working all the way till Shabbos and making it appear that He is "violating" the holy day? What compelled G-d to give off this false impression that He was laboring on the Shabbos? And why would the Torah be interested is relating this detail to us?

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