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July 29, 2011 / 27 Tammuz, 5771
Shabbat Chapter Two Mishnah Seven
Selected Commentary
Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Shabbat 2, 7
For three sins women die in childbirth: because they are not observant of [the laws of] niddah, hallah, and the kindling of the [Shabbat] lights.

  1. A person must say three things in his house on the eve of Shabbat just before night:
    1. Have you separated tithes?
    2. Have you prepared the 'eruv?
    3. Kindle the [Shabbat] lamp.
  2. If it is doubtful, whether it is night or not, they do not tithe that which is certainly [untithed], they do not immerse utensils, and they do not kindle the lights.
  3. But they can tithe doubtfully tithed produce, and they can set up an eruv, and they can store hot food.

And eruv and Shabbat candles speak directly to the observance of Shabbat while tithing has no necessary connection to the observance of Shabbat. Regardless the Mishna asks us a simple question. Will you be fully prepared for Shabbat once it begins. Realizing there are many activities that are prohibbitted on Shabbat the Mishna makes a few suggestions as to the checklist of items that should be accomplished before the onset of Shabbat.

Much like the lists we make before we go on vacation, such as is the coffeee maker off, is the washing machine empty has the paper been canceled? We generate list in order to make sure we haven't forgotten something important. We would hate to board a plane and remember we forgot to do something that was critical before we left. Have we done everything possible to give ourselves peace of mind to be able to go away and enjoy ourselves free of worry. And then we must let go.

Our Mishna asks of three different areas of our lives. Have we helped others, have you extended your boundaries and are you ready to let go?

The law of tithing says we have to give a percentage of our income to those who do need assistance from us. The law of tithing is a reminder of the importance of maintaining communal institution that seem to sometimes be devoid of compelling personal stories. When the Mishna asks, “Have you separated tithes?” it is asking have you given a part, a small percentage of what you have earned this week to sustain another or an important institution.

In creating an eruv a person extends the boundaries of their property to be more inclusive. Whether than boundary be a physical enlargement of space or capacity to continue to cook when a festival runs into Shabbat - the symbol of an eruv says certain areas of our lives bleed into other areas of our lives. And that we need to expand ourselves beyond the safety and protection of what makes us feel comfortable. Therefore, when the Mishna asks “Have you prepared the 'eruv?'” it is asking have left your comfort zone this week?

In the final statement the Mishna is really asking, are you now ready to let go? When the Mishna says, “Kindle the [Shabbat] lamp,” it is instructing us that at some point you have to let go and move on. When the Mishna say, light the candles it is teaching that at some point you have stop evaluating and begin Shabbat.

We all have items on our to do this each week. We each set goals for what we want to accomplish over the span of seven days. For some we set goals for a year, some for a month and as thoughtful people we regularly check on our progress. Have we reached the markers we have set for ourselves? Have we achieved all that has been expected of us? Some times we do and sometimes we do not. Our Mishna suggests that we must come to that understanding of our lives in a general way. As the serenity prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr suggests, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
 

This week's Mishnah lesson was written by
Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Rabbi Jay M. Stein became the Senior Rabbi of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, PA in January, 2004. He is a member of the Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Currently, he is a Board Member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; an Executive Board Member of Vaad Board of Rabbis, Philadelphia; and a member of the Chancellor's Rabbinic Cabinet of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. From 1990-1991, Rabbi Stein served as an Alef-Alef Fellow in Jewish Education at Tel Aviv University. In 1993, he was awarded the Lowenfeld Prize in Practical Theology from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and, in 1995, he was named a Wexner Rabbinic Fellow. He founded a Regional Think Tank for Rabbis serving as Spiritual Leaders in the Solomon Schechter Day Schools. Rabbi Stein authored a chapter in The Resource Guide for Rabbis on Domestic Violence published by Jewish Women International, and co-published articles on domestic violence in the Rabbinical Assembly Newsletter, as well as Outlook Magazine. Presently, Rabbi Stein is a participant of the STAR Rabbis: Good to Great Program and a certified Counselor in Chemical Dependence. He has received his ordination, M.A.; Jewish Education, B.A.; Jewish Philosophy from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America; and B.A., Sociology from Columbia University.

The opinions expressed in this Unraveller are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the FJMC.


Photos from the 2011 FJMC Convention

FJMC Convention 2011
California Beach Party

FJMC Convention 2011
Birkat is never like this anywhere else

FJMC Convention 2011
Kabalat Shabbat

And after convention . . .
Unplug & Recharge by Tom Sudow, read about it in Mentschen
Brigadoon by Eric Weis, read about it in Mentschen

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