Stephen Denker

The day God rested, our work began

There are many ways to ‘observe’ God’s Day of Rest. The most obvious is Shabbat. For us, Shabbat is a day of rest and a day of observance. What I am writing about here — is about God’s Day of Rest and what that means for us. It is His call for us to take up the work of Creation. It is for us join God in giving meaning to Existence.

The first six days, God created the World. God did not create the World as His Sandbox. God created the World as platform for Kedusha. Humanity was created during the first six days to be the vehicle for Kedusha. The very worth of Existence is Kedusha. Kedusha validates Existence! God did not intend for Kedusha to be His job alone. This job is ours as well! We are not God’s toy, we are His partner!

The first six Days of Creation are Systems Engineering Design Processes. As someone educated in and who has practiced engineering as a career, I am in awe of God’s exquisite, intricately beautiful design — the craftsmanship and sophisticated synergy of His World. For example, the absolute requirement for sustainable life requires oxygen breathing animals and their reciprocal — carbon dioxide breathing plants. Science can only explain how components work, but cannot really explain how before-the-fact the initial systems were originally created. But initial designs must be improved or upgraded to adapt to changing conditions — that is Evolution. Creation and Evolution are both common in the practice of engineering. They are in God’s design strategy as well. They are not alternatives, rather they are one continuous process.

God’s initial model — humankind was shown to be defective. At first, plagues, floods, pandemics, natural events were His correction tools. As the better solution, God added a new component — the Jewish People and our Torah Instruction Guide. This could be read as God’s adaption of the technique we engineers use to resolve design defects — add robustness to our initial design. God’s revised plan for humanity provides a people to carry His vision through history. The Torah is our story, our struggling to become “a kingdom of priests and a holy na¬tion.”

The Heavens are God’s. The World God has given to Mankind. The Heavens remain under God’s firm control, without freedom of choice. In our World, however, we are free to act. We can choose to perfect it and transform its nature into something spiritual. Clearly God needs our help.

“… for God has not made us like the nations of the lands and has not emplaced us like the families of earth; for God has not assigned our portion like theirs nor our lot like all their multitudes. But we bend our knees, bow and acknowledge our thanks before the King Who reigns over kings…” (From the Aleinu prayer)
Thus, Existence is a deeply serious matter for which all of us are finally accountable. “It is we ourselves who must answer the questions that life asks of us, and to these questions we can respond only by be¬ing responsible for our existence… The real question is not what we want from life but what does life want from us.”

So to believe in God means to see life has meaning. Traditions and values have been passed down for millennia. Traditions that we are given come not without challenges. We must both preserve and extend. Each of us should strive in some way to make this World a better place, even in small ways, than it was when we were born. “Judaism believes that each person has a fixed place in Creation. If I find myself thrust in here and now, it is because God thinks that I can act here and now efficiently. God wills me to act right here and now.”

Judaism and Jews are inseparable. There is no Judaism without a Jewish people. Jews have no expectations of remaking humanity in our religious image. However, we must never forget that God’s overriding concern isn’t a single people but humanity.

The Talmud (Makkot 24a) teaches that the defining values of the Torah are summarized in one verse from the Book of Micah (6:8): “It has been told to you, O man, what is good, and what God requires of you: only to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk modestly with your God.” It teaches us to truly empathize and identify with the needs of others, their unique¬ness, and their sensitivities — the essence of compassion, the essence of justice.

What we humans have in common with God is freedom and moral responsibility. There are many areas of life where God tells us exactly what we are to do. But there are also many where God doesn’t spell it out and we are expected to figure it out on our own. In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah — God tests Abraham and Abraham tests God! We (both we and God) must ennoble all our acts. “… slay the righteous with the wicked, so that righteous should be as the wicked? Shall not the Judge of all the World do justly?” (Bereishit xviii: 25).

To create the physical Universe, God needed only Himself. To create a Universe of Kedusha, God needs us. That is why we were created! Practice Kedusha — humaneness, decency, humility and Mitzvot. Live a meaningful life — live in the light of God’s presence — live in answer to His call.

Clearly God challenges me!

About the Author
Stephen Denker has been collaboratively researching family histories since 2000. He has self-published nine family history, genealogy and commercial books. In 2007 he spent two weeks in Havana, Cuba where his family lived in the 1920s, updating the Havana United Hebrew Congregation’s Jewish Cemetery records on-site and photographing the 1600 gravestones.
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