Parashat Pinchas provides us with a reference to Shabbat and the offerings needed to be brought to the Temple.
Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch connects this reference with a previous one found in Parashat Emor in the book of Leviticus, where it forbids us to do any labor on Shabbat and shows us how we can take these two elements of Shabbat from both parashas to fully connect to our own Shabbat and to God.
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In this week’s parasha, Parashat Pinchas, we have descriptions of the major Jewish festivals, among them, Shabbat. The parasha refers to Shabbat and only tells us which offerings we need to bring to the Temple on Shabbat with no other references.
Later, the parasha describes Chag HaMatzot, Passover, and describes both the reference to the offering and the reference to the fact that it is forbidden to do any labor during Passover.
When we compare this description to the one found in Parashat Emor, as it appears in the book of Leviticus, we see a totally different description of Shabbat. There is a description of the fact that it is forbidden to do any labor on Shabbat, but there is no reference whatsoever to the offering. When we read further in Emor about the description of Passover, we see a reference to the offering as well as the reference to the fact that it is forbidden to do any labor during Passover.
How come in this week’s parasha, the description of Shabbat holds only one element while the description of Passover has both?
I think the answer is simple. Part of Shabbat is imitating the act of God – working for six days, creating the world and then resting on Shabbat. Resting should not include bringing offerings and working in the Temple. At the same time, Shabbat is all about connecting to God. The tool of connecting to God in the life of the Bible is the offering, the sacrifice. This tells us how we can connect with our own Shabbat. Our own Shabbat should involve a component of rest, no labor, and at the same time an act of connection, a way to connect to God. This can be done by learning, praying and any other way that makes our Shabbat full of God’s presence.
So, on the one hand, we stop from labor and on the other hand, our resting component, is connecting to God.
Avi Novis-Deutsch is presently the Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary. Ordained as a Masorti rabbi by the SRS in 2003, Rabbi Novis-Deutsch also has an MA in Jewish Studies from JTS. He served for nine years as a pulpit rabbi at two Masorti congregations in Israel, most recently, at Haminyan Hamishpachti Masorti Kfar Veradim. Rabbi Novis-Deutsch also worked for two years as a Jewish educator in Berkeley and in the Bay Area, California. He is married to Dr. Nurit Novis-Deutsch. They and their three children live on Kibbutz Hanaton.