Friday, June 4, 2010

Guest post: Shabbat as "bride" and "queen"

A few weeks back, I posted some thoughts from Judith Shulevitz on "light Sabbath" vs. "dark Sabbath." Messianic blogger Paula from Grasping Mashiach made a great comment illustrating how Shulevitz's "light/dark Sabbath" is really a recapitulation of the teachings of the sages about Shabbat as bride/queen, which is itself based on the Torah's command to remember/observe (zachor/sh'mor):
The idea of Sabbath as light and dark reminds me of the rabbinic concepts of Shabbat as bride (Shabbat HaKallah) and queen (Shabbat HaMalchah), framed in more palatable and modern language. Samuel Dresner in his book “The Sabbath” explains bride as feelings of love and desire toward the Sabbath and queen as laws of observance regarding the Sabbath.

Chazal (Shevu’oth 20b) relate that remembering Shabbat and keeping Shabbat were given by HaShem in a single utterance (based on Exodus 20:8 in relation to Deuteronomy 5:12). Remembering is the bride, the light part of Sabbath, the longing for the experience of freedom, peace, and rest. Keeping is the queen, or the dark part of Sabbath, the laws and statues. But both remembering and keeping, bride and queen, light and dark are part of the same entity. As Dresner puts it;

"One can never truly know the inward feeling (bride) of Sabbath without the outward form (queen)."

Like a queen the Sabbath is a reigning monarch who arrives on the seventh day despite the will or liking of man. When a queen is in the palace everything must be in order and certain protocol followed, yet it is the protocol or “rules” that enable the experience of inner peace.

With this in mind I wonder if just a “little” darkness is the answer regarding Shabbat? Certainly, people have to start somewhere in observance, but inevitably it would seem that “remembering” and “keeping” or emotional desire and specific observance/discipline must have equal balance and weight in order to celebrate Shabbat to its full and intended extent.

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