by Tzvi Schnee
December 8, 2019
Today, the first day of the week, otherwise known as yom rishon, in the Hebrew language, the language of my ancestors, as well as Kitvei Kodesh (Hebrew Scripture) is usually a day of study and reflection for me, as well as the beginning of new writings. Perhaps, because of my Shabbat rest, on the seventh day of the week, I am fully given over to start writing again, immediately at the end of Shabbat. It is almost a compulsion, wherein, I am eagerly ready to hit the keyboard with my fingers running, so to speak, as if the restriction on writing on the Sabbath is almost too much for me to bear. Admittedly so, last night, feeling inspired, I confess that I started writing before the end of Shabbos. However, this is an exception to the rule, that only occurs on certain occasions. Even so, I should show more restraint, for the sake of the sanctity of Shabbat.
For some who are not as meticulous in regard to Shabbos observance, refraining from writing may seem like an excessive injunction, according to Rabbinical decree. After all, many people would not regard writing as “work;” yet, for someone like myself, who is gradually accepting the label, for better or for worse, of “blogger,” I can say in the affirmative writing is a type of work. More importantly, is the reason for the designation from the perspective of Torah. The thirty nine categories of work prohibited on Shabbat is based upon the various types of work necessary for the construction of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the wilderness), and later, upon the Beis HaMikdash (Temple) in Jerusalem. Since it was important to mark the wooden beams, for the sake of delineation, so they would put in their proper place, the act of writing became designated as a type of work.
The fact that any construction of the Temple was prohibited on Shabbat, in and of itself, professes an important concept: that the sanctity of Shabbos, coined, “an island in time,” by Abraham Heschel, takes precedent to the sanctity of space. Although this may seem like a generalisation on my part, it is an interesting concept to reflect upon. For myself, I connect to the idea of providing a place for the extra Shabbos soul to reside within me, akin to G-d’s presence, the Shechinah dwelling in the Temple. Therefore, the injunction against writing takes on more meaning, somewhat challenging to express in words. Even so, despite my intent to abide in obedience to this prescriptive element, I often find myself in an existential bind: because my identity is partly defined by my expression of belief through writing, as well as my personal thoughts, as funneled through that belief, it is almost as if I could say that “I write therefore I am.” Of course, this also implies the converse, as if my sense of existence diminishes when I am not writing. I wonder whether or not I am alone in regard to this dilemna, painted in the larger context, simply as “the fear of not writing.”