Finding The Right Space

Aryeh Canter is currently at the Summer Kollel at Kayam Farm, spending his mornings working at their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and his afternoons learning about Jewish Agricultural laws. Here are some of his thoughts…

This week started out with bang (literally) as we celebrated the Independence of America from the Queen of England. On the farm we were able to see multiple-cities’ fireworks and it was a pretty spectacular sight. In honour of the day we had a BBQ, a real BBQ! I learned the art of grilling – with charcoals – from Naftali Hanau (founder of Grow and Behold, a company which provides pasture raised kosher chickens). Here are the coles notes.

Once the charcoals are red-hot you create a “hot” and “cool” zone. Then you put the steak on the hot zone (2 1/2 min each side) to crisp the outside of the meat and set off the caramelization process, then you let it finish cooking on the cool side. After you take it off the grill you should cover it with some aluminum foil to make sure the juices flow right back into the meat. It was nice to be able to really understand the cooking process and to bring some meaning to the rare meal (pun intended).

This week’s theme for was melachot (work). This concept can be understood as referring to the verbs that are forbidden on the Sabbath. In a traditional context, it is defined as 39 specific actions which were done in the creating of the Mishkan (tabernacle) in the desert. They are generally understood to be broken into 6 sections: field work, making material curtains, making leather curtains, connecting of the beams together, taking up and putting down of the walls, and the final touches of the preparation.

We started our study of this list as trying to visualize them in a more practical application. The first 11 of the laws refer to field work, and more specifically the process of bread making. These steps include sowing (planting), plowing, reaping (cutting), gathering, threshing (loosening the seed in the grain from the scaly outside), winnowing (droping the mixture of seed and other parts in the air and having the seeds fall to the ground as the wind blows away the lighter parts), grinding, sifting, kneading, and finally baking. We went through this process with barley.

Doing ‘work’, as it is most basically defined by traditional Judaism, was an extraordinarily powerful experience. It is mind-boggling to think about all the shomer-shabbos Jews (Literally: ‘guarding the Shabbat’ colloquially: people who follow the rules of Shabbat) who have never been able to do the pshat (literal); literally the work that is forbidden on the Sabbath. It makes the upcoming day all the more exciting.

After getting our hands dirty, we went back inside and began to attempt to parse through what the true meaning of work is, especially in comparison to holiness (which is a basic tenant of Shabbat). Through our discussion we noticed a very interesting trend with the words used to describe both Shabbat and melachot (work).

The Jews are commanded in the Torah to shomer (guard) the Sabbath, but this was not the first time that the idea of shomer was mentioned in the Torah. After Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, Angels were commanded to “shomer the path to the Garden of Eden” (3:24).

When G!d commanded the Jewish people to shomer-Shabbat, G!d was offering us a taste of what it meant for time and space to truly exist. Just as the Angels were commanded to protect the holy space – the Garden of Eden, we are given to the opportunity to fulfil this obligation in our resting from work – by being in holy space and time on the day of the Sabbath. Being conscious of holy space and time, can help us begin to connect to the the beauty of creation, which characterized the Garden of Eden.


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