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Shabbat #5

The Music of Halacha
Shabbat #5
1. Consciousness, Intention and Purpose
2. Immediate Purpose
3. Purpose Driven Lives
4. Purpose Must Parallel the Tabernacle Work
5. Purpose Defines Action as Constructive
The Highest Purpose:
The Tabernacle work is considered one of the most significant achievements in the history of human spiritual creativity. Israel successfully built a House for the Shechinah, or Divine Presence. Therefore, there is nothing better to guide us in our own spiritual endeavors.
The Tabernacle work is described in the Bible as ““melechet machashevet,” “work of thought”. The types of work that were used in the construction of the Tabernacle determine the prohibition against certain creative work on the Shabbat. Therefore, the Biblical prohibition of Shabbat is directed specifically to creative work with an intelligent purpose. The prohibition assumes that at least some of our actions during the week and on Shabbat can be defined as Thoughtful Work. What an assumption! This belief is not only about our professional and work lives, but also about our spiritual lives as well. We can’t imagine making the decisions that we must make as doctors, lawyers, brokers and businessmen without a clear purpose. Do our spiritual activities possess the same sense of purpose? The theory of Thoughtful Action is that our spiritual efforts somehow match the qualities of the Thoughtful Work of the Tabernacle. They too are always directed by purpose.
We have been following the opinion of Rabbi Shimon as defined by the Tosafot. We have concluded that only actions that have a defined purpose, a purpose that parallels the Tabernacle work, are considered Thoughtful, or Purpose Driven Actions. Rabbi Shimon considers a Mitzvah to be a Thoughtful Action only if directed by the purpose set out by the Torah. Someone who wraps Tefillin without a clear sense of purpose to fulfill God’s commandment has not produced a Thoughtful Action. When a woman lights Shabbat candles she must have the Mitzvah in mind. When a person prays only to pour out their heart without the purpose of fulfilling God’s commandment to pour out our hearts in prayer has not prayed a Thoughtful prayer. The Tefillin, Shabbat candles or the prayer do not qualify as Melechet machashevet, Purposeful Action without a clear sense of purpose. Observances absent the purpose miss the mark.
Rabbi Shimon believes that all the work we dedicate to our relationship with God, if desired to reach the quality of work that allowed us to construct a House for the Divine Presence, must always be directed toward the purpose of nurturing that relationship. In that, Rabbi Shimon echoes the long ago cry of the prophet Isaiah who railed against those who serve God only from habit.
The laws of Shabbat not only guide our actions on Shabbat, they provide direction all our spiritual efforts.
Copyright 2008© Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg

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