Renewable Energy (Beshallach, Pact and Talk) (2023)

The first translation of the Torah into another language, Greek, took place around the 2nd century BC. in Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy II. In Hebrew it is known as the Septuagint.HaShivim, because it was made by a team of seventy academics. However, the Talmud says that the sages who worked on the project intentionally mistranslated some texts at various points, believing that a literal translation would simply be incomprehensible to Greek readers. One of those texts was the phrase: "On the seventh day God finished all the work that he had done." Rather, the translators wrote: "On the sixth day God finished."[1]

What did they think the Greeks would not understand? How does the idea that God created the universe in six days make more sense than in seven? It sounds confusing, but the answer is simple. The Greeks themselves could not understand the seventh day, Shabbat, as part of the work of creation. What's so creative about resting? how we did itNomanufacture,NoConstruction,Noinvent? The idea doesn't seem to make any sense.

In fact, we have independent testimony from contemporary Greek writers that one of the things mocked in Judaism was the Sabbath. One in seven Jews does not work, they said, because they are lazy. The notion that the brand itself could have independent value was apparently beyond his comprehension. Interestingly, in a very short time, the empire of Alexander the Great began to crumble, as did the ancient city-state of Athens, which produced some of the greatest thinkers and writers in history. Civilizations can suffer burnout just like individuals. This is what happens when you don't have a rest day written in your schedule. As Ahad HaAm said:

“More than the Jewish people kept Shabbat, the Jewish people kept Shabbat.

Rest one day in seven and you will not burn.

Shabbat, which we encountered for the first time this weekParascha, is one of the largest institutions the world has ever seen. It changed the way the world thought about time. Before Judaism, people measured time by the sun, the 365-day solar calendar that keeps us in line with the seasons, or by the moon, meaning H. after months ("month" comes from the word " moon") of about thirty days. The idea of ​​the seven-day week - which has no equivalent in nature - was born in the Torah and spread throughout the world through Christianity and Islam, which borrowed it from Judaism and made a difference simply by the fact of what happened on another day. We have years for the sun, months for the moon, and weeks for the Jews.

What Shabbat gave, and still does, is the unique opportunity to create a space in our lives and in society as a whole where we are truly free. Free of work pressure; free from the demands of cruel employers; free from the siren songs of a consumer society that urges us to squander our way to happiness; free to be ourselves in the company of those we love. Somehow, generation after generation, despite profound economic and industrial changes, that day renewed its meaning. In the days of Moses, it meant freedom from the slavery of Pharaoh. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, this meant freedom from factory working conditions with long hours for little pay. For us, it means being free from emails, smartphones and 24/7 availability requirements.

oursParaschatells us that Shabbat was one of the first commandments given to the Israelites when they left Egypt. After complaining about the lack of food, God told them that he would send them manna from heaven, but they were not to collect it on the seventh day. Instead, a double serve would land in the sixth. That's why we have two so far.chaloteon Shabbat, in remembrance of that time.

Shabbat was not only culturally unprecedented. Conceptually it was the same. Throughout history, people have dreamed of an ideal world. From the Greek we call these visions utopias.omeans "no" andtoposmeans "place".[2]They are so called because none of these dreams came true except in one case, namely on Shabbat. Shabbat is “a utopia today” because, twenty-five hours a week, we create a world in which there are no hierarchies, no employers and employees, no buyers and sellers, no inequalities of wealth or power, no production, no traffic, no noise. factory or market noise. It is “the immobile point of the world that turns”, a pause between symphonic movements, a pause between the chapters of our day, a temporary equivalent of the open field between cities where the breeze is felt and the birdsong is heard. Shabbat is a utopia, not as it will be at the end of time, but as we are rehearsing it in the middle of the age.


God wanted the Israelites to begin their one-in-seven trial of freedom almost immediately after leaving Egypt, because true seven-in-seven day freedom takes time, centuries, millennia. The Torah considers slavery to be bad,[3]but it didn't end right away because people weren't ready for it yet. Neither Britain nor the United States abolished it until the 19th century, and even then not without a fight. But the outcome was inevitable once Shabbat began, for the slaves who know freedom one day in seven will eventually rise up against their chains.

The human spirit needs time to breathe, breathe, grow. The first rule of time management is to distinguish between things that areimportantand those who are justurgent. Under pressure, things that are important but not urgent take a backseat. But these are often the things that are most important to our happiness and our sense of a life well lived.Shabbat is the time dedicated to important but not urgent things.: Family, friends, community, a sense of holiness, a prayer thanking God for the good things in our lives, and a Torah reading retelling the long and dramatic story of our people and our journey . Shabbat is when we celebrateshalom bayit– the peace that comes from love and dwells in the blessed houseSchechina, the presence of God is almost felt in the light of the candles, in the wine and in the special bread. This is a beauty created not by Michelangelo or Leonardo, but by each of us: a calm island of time in the midst of the often turbulent sea of ​​a turbulent world.

I once participatedalong with the Dalai Lama, at a seminar (organized by the Elijah Institute) in Amritsar, northern India, the holy city of the Sikhs. During lectures given to 2,000 Sikh students, one of the Sikh leaders addressed the students and said, "What we need is what the Jews have: Shabbat!" Imagine, he said, one day a week dedicated to family, home and relationships. I could see the beauty of him. We can live your reality.

The ancient Greeks could not understand how a day of rest could be part of creation. But that's the way it is, because without rest for the body, peace of mind, stillness for the soul, and a renewal of our bonds of identity and love, the creative process eventually withers and dies. It suffers from entropy, the principle that all systems lose energy over time.


The Jewish people have not lost energy over time and remain as vital and creative as ever. The reason for this is Shabbat: humanity's greatest source of renewable energy, the day that gives us the strength to carry on.

[1] Meguila 9a.

[2]The word was coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516, who used it as the title of his book.

[3]For the falsehood of Torah slavery, see Rabbi N. L. Rabinovitch's important analysis,Mesilot Bi Levavam(Maaleh Adumim: Maaliyot, 2015), 38-45. The basis of the argument is the view, central to both the Written Torah and the Mishnah, that all human beings have the same ontological dignity as the image and likeness of God. This was in the greatest possible contrast to the views of, say, Plato and Aristotle. Rabbi Rabinovitch discusses the views of the sages and Maimonides and Me'iri on the phrase "They will be your slaves forever"(Lew. 25:46). Also keep in mind the quote you bring with you. Work 31:13-15, “If I deny justice to one of my servants… when they held a grudge against me, what will I do when God confronts me? What will I say when they hold me accountable? Did he not make those who made me in the womb? Did He not form us both into our mothers?

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Renewable Energy (Beshallach, Pact and Talk) (1)

  1. What is your favorite aspect of Shabbat?
  2. How do you think the Jewish idea of ​​Shabbat has changed the world for the better?
  3. Is it difficult to separate the urgent from the important? What things in your life are more important than the urgent things you tend to worry about?

These questions come from this week's editionin Rabbi Sacks' Covenant and Conversation. For more interactive intergenerational studies, see the full issue at

With thanks to the Schimmel family for their generous sponsorship of Covenant & Conversation, dedicated in memory of Harry (Chaim) Schimmel. rabbiacks ​​wrote:

"I have loved R'Chaim Schimmel's Torah since I first encountered it. It's not just about the truth on the surface, it's also about the connection to a deeper truth below. Along with Anna, his remarkable wife with whom was 60 years old, they built a life dedicated to the love of family, community and Torah.An extraordinary couple who moved me greatly with the example of their lives.

For more information on Rabbi Sacks zt”l, visit his websitewww.RabbiSacks.orgor follow @RabbiSacks on social media.

You can also subscribe to our mailing list or join our WhatsApp group and receive these essays directly on your phone every week by visiting

About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020) was a world religious leader, philosopher, author of more than 25 books, and a moral voice for our time. From 1991 to 2013, he served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Community Congregations. Rabbi Sacks passed away in November 2020. His weekly series of Torah essays titled Covenant and Conversation continues to be shared and disseminated around the world.

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