Shabbat: To Postpone Means to Profane

“This is the burnt offering of the Shabbat on its Shabbat.”
Bamidbar 28:10

Rashi (ad loc) asks the question: Why does the Torah need to specify that the Sabbath offering should be brought on Shabbat? If it is called a Shabbat offering, then is it not implicit and obvious that it is supposed to be sacrificed on the Shabbat!?

Rashi answers simply that one might have thought that if he forgot to bring this offering on a particular Shabbat, he could still bring it on a subsequent Shabbat (i.e., he would just bring two sacrifices the following week). To make sure that one will not make this mistake, the Torah uses this language to instruct us that we may only bring this sacrifice on its own Shabbat. Once the day has passed that offering is no longer relevant and valid.

Although Jewish Law does allow a person to make up for missed mitzvot in certain instances, this is usually only permissible in cases of duress. (See for example the case of Pesach Sheni, Bamidbar 9:6–13.)

In a few cases, a person can perform a mitzva whose time has passed, but only at a bedi’avad (a posteriori) level, and not lechatechila (a priori).

Jewish Time

While the expression “Jewish time” is well known, and suggests a more relaxed attitude towards punctuality, Judaism actually takes time very seriously. The Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel z”l explained that Judaism is the art of sanctifying time, and that this is of far greater importance than sanctifying physical space. (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951).

Indeed, the Torah first speaks about holiness in relation to time. “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” (Bereishit 2:3.) So too, we know that commencing with Shabbat even a second too late, or ending it even a second too early, violates its sanctity.

The Shabbat protects man from himself. By nature, man keeps himself very busy trying to occupy time and space with his self-expressions. On Shabbat he is asked to cease from this activity and reverse it. He must make space for the rest of creation and for God. As such he must release the reigns he holds over space and time and let them proceed without his intervention. Because he is not allowed to “work” on Shabbat (which includes even transporting objects from a public domain to a private and vice versa) a Jew learns how to distance himself from his physical space. 

The Chaos

The same is true about time. It is not the Jew who decides when Shabbat begins or ends. God decides, via the orbits of the celestial bodies, the duration of this holy day. As such, man can no longer rule over time. As the Sabbath comes in, a Jew suddenly finds himself in a position to simply appreciate and experience “quality” time. 

To set one’s schedule around fixed times – for prayers, for meals, for learning, etc. – does not only inject order into one’s life, but also meaning; and as such one gains an opportunity to sanctify those moments. The chaos of a week without order, of days without set times, is yet another manifestation of the secularization of society and the profanation of the sacred.  

Opening shopping centers on Shabbat in Israel or outside Israel on Sunday so as to accommodate the population may seem to advance more liberty but it comes with high cost, the loss of the individual as an autonomous person who has become the victim of an attitude where “having” becomes more important than “being” and “becoming”. 

The internationally renowned French Professor of neuropsychiatry Henry Baruk (1897-1999) in a letter to Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel writes:

“{People}believe themselves obligated on the day of rest to exhaust themselves with their automobiles and are the slaves of annual vacations, often returning from them ill. Such vacations may represent for many a goal of the whole year, but medically and psychologically they are less beneficial than the weekly respose of the Sabath. After all, short and regular, ryth-metic quietens, without disturbing wonted habits. A long rest however may result in disturbing one’s accepted habits… according to our medical experience such situations are becoming more and more frequent….. a life of meditation, reading , thinking, following upon six days of action brings, on the contrary, not only admirable rest to the nervous system but also extraordinary psychological enrichment. We were able to prove this in our experiments…. In order to be effective the Sabath must be a complete social institution. There cannot be a Jewish State without Sabath observance. The Sabath must regulate the whole nation for it is the cornerstone of Jewish society and veritable of world society, ” Jewish Identity, Letters to David Ben-Gurion Query to World Jewry , A Documentary Compilation By Baruch Litvin, (Feldheim Publishers, JerusalemNew York, 1970, pp 184-187.)                

Thus the Torah emphatically tells us to bring the Sabbath sacrifice at its proper time. Matters of importance have to be done promptly and with alacrity. To procrastinate and postpone too often means to profane.

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Dear Friends,

Every week I receive hundreds of emails, as well as a host of important observations on my essays, via our website, Facebook, newspaper blogs, and other media outlets. It is therefore completely impossible for me to respond—for which I apologize—but please be assured that I read every comment, which I deeply appreciate and from which I learn so much. Only in exceptional cases will I respond in a subsequent essay. My office staff will try to be more prompt in posting these remarks on our website.

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your comments with me, as well as with your fellow readers. I hope you will continue to do so.

Nathan Lopes Cardozo

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo is the Founder and Dean of the David Cardozo Academy and the Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu in Jerusalem. A sought-after lecturer on the international stage for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, Rabbi Cardozo is the author of 13 books and numerous articles in both English and Hebrew. Rabbi Cardozo heads a Think Tank focused on finding new Halachic and philosophical approaches to dealing with the crisis of religion and identity amongst Jews and the Jewish State of Israel. Hailing from the Netherlands, Rabbi Cardozo is known for his original and often fearlessly controversial insights into Judaism. His ideas are widely debated on an international level on social media, blogs, books and other forums.
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