Va-Yakhel & Pekudei
For the week of March 17, 2012 / 23 Adar 5772
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 35:1 - 40:38;
Bemidbar / Numbers 19:1-22
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-38



You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day. (Shemot / Exodus 35:3; ESV)

One of the explicit prohibitions with regard to Israel's Sabbath was that the people were not to make a fire. That this in no way forbids having a premade fire in one's home is no legal loophole. God was not insisting that his covenant people freeze on cold days or that they must only eat cold food; it was that there was something about the making of the fire that God, due to his love for Israel and his infinite wisdom, thought best to direct them away from.

The subject of Sabbath deserves a much fuller treatment than what I can provide in this short message. God's directive to refrain from work on the seventh day each week needs to be revisited in our 24/7, never-stop culture. Disregarding the rhythm of life that God gave ancient Israel is not doing us any good. How exactly to implement Sabbath in our lives is one question; that we need to reincorporate it shouldn't even be a question.

Whatever you think about the Sabbath question, there is something in this short directive from God to Israel that reveals a most important principle. Since the kindling of fire was prohibited on the Sabbath day, while the presence of fire and its benefits (heat and light) were not, the only way to ensure that one's home had a fire was to prepare it beforehand.

This challenges our 24/7, never-stop culture. For many us, our lives are overloaded with activity as we run from thing to thing, from the sounding of our alarms in the morning to collapsing from exhaustion at the end of the day. Actually we don't go from thing to thing, most of us are juggling several things at once. We call this multitasking, except that this term implies that we are successfully doing all the things we are trying to do at once. Personally I think we are deceiving ourselves. With less and less things to which we give our full attention, the quality of our output is severely threatened.

Multitasking is one of several factors that contribute to our growing neglect to prepare for any of the tasks we attempt to do. We are just too busy to prepare for anything anymore. Anything of quality requires forethought and good planning. For many years now, my wife and I have tried to have a date one night each week. While there have been times when we do something spontaneous and it has gone well, our dates tend to be a lot better if we plan ahead. In fact that which ensures that we have regular dates at all is that we have planned ahead for the long term by committing to having them. This causes us to make sure that other activities must occur at other times and unless there is something we both agree is more important than our date, we won't schedule anything else at that time. If we do have to miss our regularly scheduled date, we immediately try to find another night in the week to have it. We are prepared.

Preparing for the truly important things of life is the only way to ensure that they happen and that they are done well. We are fooling ourselves to think that the important things will naturally happen on their own. Without preparation they cannot compete with the ever growing pile of seemingly urgent things that incessantly demand our attention.

It is most likely that if we prepare well, we will have some difficult choices to make as to how we use our time. But in the end, I am sure that those things that get left undone were not as important as we first thought.

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