We speak of sacred time and sacred space as if they exist on their own. But they don’t – their sacred nature is an attribute that we impose or imbue them with. We can easily ignore Shabbat and treat it like any of the other six days in the week – there is nothing inherent in the seventh day that compels it to be responded to in a different way. It is because we have been told to do so, that it takes on a sacredness, it is our awareness of a connection to the spiritual that it becomes sacred.
In this double portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, Moses convenes the whole Israelite community and the first thing he says is that the seventh day is to be set aside, sacred, for Y-H-V-H. There are two ways to mark this day as distinct from other days – in contrast to the other six days, no work is to be done as it is to be a complete rest and no fires are to be kindled. The previous parsha begins the Shabbat description but is interrupted by the building of the Golden Calf.
Does this interruption in the narrative reveal something about our ability or inability to let go of our plugged-in lives, full of busy-ness? Is it idolatry, a devotion to something other than the spiritual, that interferes with our willingness to set aside time? The juxtaposition of the details of building the Tabernacle and the ark to hold the tablets with both the golden calf and shabbat, serves to emphasize the value of sacred time. Even the construction of the sacred mishkan is paused for Shabbat. Abraham Joshua Heschel refers to Shabbat as a cathedral in time. As Jews, we attempt to construct a calendar of values, focusing on freedom, responsibility, justice, forgiveness, communal joys and communal sorrows.
As we approach the holiday of freedom, may we all think about what enslaves us and how to enrich our lives the gift of Sacred Time.