Seeking Comfort on Shabbat

In the course of this week, one of the reflections (by Naomi Lev) on the Daf Yomi from Shabbat 53 caught my attention (read the page on Sefaria here). It centred around a discussion among the rabbis that made use of the Talmudic legal principal kol v’chomer – from minor to major. If a rule applies to one situation it can also apply to another. The discussion was about carrying things – or not carrying them - on Shabbat; and it was extended to animals carrying things, since, like us, our animals and our servants (I really must remember to give the servants a day off) are not supposed to work – or carry – on Shabbat.

Basically, the rabbis broaden the debate from allowing us to hang a basket of food around an animal’s neck to save it from bending down, to placing a saddlecloth on its back to keep it warm. Both are permitted for the comfort of the animal on Shabbat – and the saddlecloth is more important – major – than the basket - minor. While the entire rabbinic debate is about avoiding work and not carrying burdens on Shabbat, here the idea of Shabbat comfort is introduced.

As progressive Jews, we search for ways of making Shabbat holy by making it unique and special. We may not have the same concern about carrying physical burdens on Shabbat as the rabbis in the Talmud did, but what about our mental burdens, perhaps heightened and exaggerated by these anxious days of Corona lockdown?

Making Shabbat unique and special can be about finding ways to rest – to cease from the work that preoccupies us during the week. But it could also be about taking the time to unburden, seeking comfort for ourselves, just as the rabbis sought comfort for their animals. Perhaps seeking comfort for ourselves on Shabbat could be another way of being holy like the Eternal is holy, the focal statement of the second part of this week’s double parashah AchareiMot/Kedoshin

Now who mentioned kugel?


Brian Doyle
IJC Rabbinical Intern