I am so angry, I could…
Most of us desire, to one degree or another, to live a life of meaning. We want our lives to make a difference. People search for significance in all sorts of ways, some quite absurd and others rather beautiful. Many turn toward religion, relying on its principles to arbitrarily add value to their lives, even if the ideas are esoteric. Judaism in its purest form is not a “religion” as much as systems to develop one’s abilities to their fullest potential. Judaism’s goal is for human beings to emulate God, primarily by mastering themselves. Judaism directs a person toward attachment to the Source of Life and believes that the connection will result only through similarity.
The Tabernacle in the desert is considered the Creation in miniature. When we carefully examine the details of its construction we learn a great deal about the Creation. The consciousness, intention, and purpose of each step in constructing this House of God were mirror images of the same qualities inherent in Creation.
Our approach to studying the laws of Shabbat has been to listen to its music: we are not focused on the laws per se, but what they teach us about God, His creation and how we should measure our actions in order that we too can be creators, so that we may live lives of the highest meaning.
We have determined that our actions must be guided by the same consciousness, intention and purpose. We are still in middle of defining purpose, but we have established that Halacha teaches us that our actions are measured by their purpose rather than their result.
Whether one observes the Shabbat laws, or not, the lessons of the development of the Halacha can serve as a guide toward the religiously neutral goal of living a meaningful life.
An action is determined to be constructive or destructive by its purpose, benefit and intention.
I’m so angry I could…”
If a person tore his clothes in mourning over someone for whom he is not obligated to tear his clothing and mourn, he is not culpable. Tearing clothes is destructive. That is why if someone tore his clothes, performed a destructive act, in agony over the death of a friend, he is not culpable for violating the Shabbat. However, if a mourner tore his clothes over the death of a relative for whom he must mourn, his destructive act is considered constructive, he is fulfilling a mitzvah, an obligation, and his constructive act makes him guilty for violating the Shabbat. He is venting his agony and therefore the act becomes constructive. It is the fact that he is performing a rabbinically mandated action that transforms the destructive action into a constructive act.
What is the law if someone tears his clothes in an uncontrolled rage, and gives voice to his anger with an act of destruction? Is he liable for violating the Shabbat laws: His destructive act served a constructive purpose. from his perspective, but it is not an Halachically permitted action. Or, what is the law if I am so angry with someone that I punch him in the nose and wound him on the Shabbat? Am I liable because my destructive act served an emotionally constructive purpose?
These takes us back to the debate between the Tosafot and Rashi regarding the definition of purpose, and even further back to the debate between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon.
To be continued…