Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 10 June 2023 / 21 Sivan 5783

Kiddush (Part 5): Unity Through Separation

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“Although you may enjoy the rest and the tranquility of Shabbat, have in mind that you are not observing the day for your own pleasure; rather to honor the One who commanded you to do so.”

Sefat Emet (Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter)

Kiddush concludes:“For that day is the prelude to the holy convocations, a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt. For You chose us and You sanctified us from all the other nations. And you gave us Your holy Shabbat with love and favor as a heritage. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who sanctifies the Shabbat.”

Acknowledging that Hashem created the world when we recite Kiddush on Friday night would seem to be an obvious and perfect way of expressing our obligation to remember Shabbat and to guard it. Yet, Kiddush does not stop there. It continues, by connecting the Creation of the world to the Exodus from Egypt. The Exodus is the moment that we, the Jewish Nation, were released from servitude.

However, at first glance, the Exodus does not appear to be seamlessly connected to the Creation. After all, there are more than two thousand four hundred years separating the two events. So, why does Kiddush join the two together?

The answer to this question provides an essential and foundational lesson. By connecting the two concepts of Creation and Freedom, we are stating unequivocally that freedom from slavery alone is lacking. If we do not attach our physical freedom to a spiritual ideal, it is virtually of no consequence. Maximilian Harden was a completely assimilated German Jew who was the editor of Die Zukunft. He wrote in July 1922, "Freedom is an obsolete Jewish concept." While he may have been correct about freedom being a Jewish concept, he could not have been more wrong about it being obsolete. Here we are, just over one hundred years later, declaring our allegiance to freedom. Freedom from the mundane. To dedicate one day a week focusing on the only truly important dimension in our existence: the spiritual.

Maimonides so eloquently describes all physical goals as imaginary values. They are valueless because they do not enhance the soul.

To be continued…

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