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The Parasha introduces the section dealing with the Festivals with the Shabbat:
"Six days shall you work. The seventh day is the Sabbath, a day of rest: you may not do any work. It is a Sabbath to G-d..." (23:3).
The phrase: "It is a Sabbath to G-d" in Hebrew is shabbat hi - Shabbat is a feminine noun.
Later on, the Torah mentions the Sabbath together with Yom Kippur, with the phrase shabbat shabaton hu (23:32): Yom Kippur is being described as a Sabbath of Sabbaths. However, the preposition hu is masculine. In being connected to Yom Kippur, Shabbat is a masculine noun.
The female categorization of the word Shabbat indicates that the Shabbat has distinctly female characteristics. Today, the clich?d proverb: "A woman's place is in the home" is politically incorrect in some circles, or as others oily and greasily put it: "inappropriate".
Yet throughout the ages and in pretty well all non-dysfunctional cultures, it is the mother - and the mother only - that has the capacity to give the love and nurture that is vital to the child's security, need for affection, and well-being. And from her viewpoint, a mother's attachments are typically at their greatest towards her own children.
That does not mean that a woman's place is exclusively in the home. Her home and family are not her boundary. Her life can - and typically should - widen to include work and other activities. But rather, the center of gravity of a woman's life should be at home.
Shabbat, as a day of rest, is on similar feminine lines. The emphasis of Shabbat should be the home - the family getting together in the spirit of Shabbat, the festive meals, the zemirot, purposeful family discussion, perhaps a little "learning" around the table, guests and so on. Home-centered, spiritually nurturing, as a mother towards her children… Like the ideal woman, the home is not the only focus of Shabbat. The home is not a boundary. But it is the center of gravity of the Shabbat day.
In contrast, Yom Kippur's being described as a Sabbath is in the masculine. It is not home centered. Its current form is based in prolonged communal worship and facing the hard facts of previous conduct, hoping to generate the powerful resolve to do better in the future.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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