D’var Torah For Friday, March 17, 2022

This week’s double portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, begins with Moses reminding the Israelites of the mitzvah to observe Shabbat. “On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Eternal…”  Shortly thereafter, Moses reaffirms the appeal for the Israelites to bring gifts “… everyone whose heart is so moved shall bring them…”  for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable tabernacle to be built to worship God in the wilderness.
It is as if Moses is reminding the Israelites that even in the face of the most important construction project in their lifetimes, Shabbat, and really all of Jewish observance, comes first. As one of the founders of cultural Zionism, Ahad Ha’am famously said, “more than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the constant flow of information and conflict contained therein from sources like social media, the news, late night television and the like. The more we become immersed in this information overload, the more we can become paralyzed by our anger, fear, frustration and the like.
This is not to say we should not be engaged in the world, for Judaism is about the sacred and the holy, but also about profane. Just as we are to engage in the building of the Mishkan, so too, we are to also engage in the rest that comes with taking a day to repair our souls. Both are essential to leading meaningful Jewish lives.
According to an article in Forbes  rest helps to heal the body, reduce stress, boosts creativity, improves productivity, and enhances decision making, among other benefits. To be effectively engaged with the world, we need to be effectively engaged with ourselves including our bodies and souls. There are many ways to do this including practicing gratitude, taking breaks, and getting meaningful sleep. But perhaps most importantly, is to find ways to observe Shabbat in ways where we unplug and find ways to connect with our visions of the Sacred. If we are able to accomplish this task, we may find ourselves at least a little rejuvenated to be able to then reengage meaningfully with the sacred tasks that lay before us. 
Shabbat Shalom

[1] Exodus 35:2

[2] Ibid. 35:5

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2021/01/15/the-benefits-of-resting-and-how-to-unplug-in-a-busy-world/?sh=68dcab2b2133