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The Music of Halacha: MySpace Rabbinic Style

Tractate Shabbat opens with a discussion of the forbidden labor of transferring an article from one domain to another: “Transfers prohibited on Shabbat are of two types that are actually four in regard to a person standing inside a private domain and of two types that are actually four in regard to a person standing outside in a public domain.”

Tosafot (Yetziot Hashabbat) quotes the question of the Rivah: “Why does the Mishna separate the laws of carrying on Shabbat from the other 39 categories of prohibited work? The Tractate should have begun with the laws of preparing for Shabbat, then the laws of the Shabbat candles etc. These laws of transferring from one domain to another should have been at the very end of the 39 categories, where it is listed. (See Tosafot for many answers.)

The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 11:5) reports a conversation between Rabbi Akiva and Turnus Rufus. The Roman asked the rabbi, “If it is true that your God honors the Shabbat, why does He blow the wind, send rain and grow grass on Shabbat?”

Rabbi Akiva offers a strange answer: “If two people share a courtyard and one participates in the Eruv and the other does not, neither may carry in the courtyard. However, one who has a private courtyard may carry all he wants. So, too, the Holy One, Blessed is He, does not share His domain with anyone else. All of creation is considered his domain, and He can carry all He wants in His domain.”

Turnus Rufus asked about many types of prohibited Shabbat work, and did not mention carrying, yet Rabbi Akiva addressed carrying in a courtyard, which is only a Rabbinic concept!

The Shabbat laws are derived from the construction of the Tabernacle – Mishkan – in the desert. (Music of Halacha: Shabbat One) We were enjoined to create a space where God could rest His Shechina – Divine Presence. All the different types of work were essential to creating a space on this world that could actually contain another dimension: The Heavenly Realm.

The Shabbat laws guide us in how to create a separate space on this world, where we can create new spiritual realities. Halacha teaches us how to reach beyond the physical realities of this world and appreciate that all we do has effects far beyond physical space and time.

Halacha itself is considered a separate space: “Since the destruction of the Temple, the Divine Presence only dwells in the four cubits of Halacha.” Halacha is a different space and dimension. It is not an escape of this world, but rather, a means to transform the physical into spiritual influence and sustenance. We can raise our physical lives up into this higher dimension.

The most powerful expression of this power is the realities we create through the Oral Law. The Written Law does not prohibit carrying in a courtyard. The Sages imposed those rules, and Rabbi Akiva pointed out to Turnus Rufus that God not only obeys His rules; He follows ours as well.

Shabbat offers many opportunities to transform our physical space into a special place.
Only use an Eruv when absolutely necessary.
Create an environment of Sanctity at the Shabbat table. Speak words of Torah. Try to avoid any arguments, anger and Lishon Harah at the Shabbat table.
Have a Shabbat wardrobe.

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