The Meaning of Sabbath Prayers | Aleph Beta

Friday Night: The House That God Built

The Meaning of Sabbath Prayers

Rabbi David Fohrman

Rabbi David Fohrman

Founder and Lead Scholar

The Sabbath prayers include special additions for each of the three times of day - Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon. Each prayer includes a rabbinic text that either appears in tandem with a Biblical text about Shabbat, or stands alone to describe the Sabbath. Why did the rabbis choose to include these specific Biblical texts, at these times of the Sabbath? How can we make sense of the liturgical additions that accompany them? In this three part series, Rabbi Fohrman shows how each of these prayers are in fact offering a rabbinic interpretation on the Biblical text, and how each one reveals a deep secret about the nature of Sabbath itself.


Rabbi Fohrman: I actually want to share with you something which I've been working on lately that relates to what we've been doing in A Tale of Two Names. Last we met before Purim, we took a week off to do some Purim stuff, last week. Before that we were going through the two creation stories, two Names of God. What I want to do is a little epilogue of that now, before we get to the story actually of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I wanted to show you something which I've been working on lately. I did a piece on this at Young Israel one year on Saturday night a couple of weeks back and last Sunday night.

This is a piece on the language of the tefillah, the language of the prayers, we have in the Amidah for Sabbath, specifically Friday night or the morning and in the afternoon.

What I found is something rather surprising, which was that -- what I'm about to show you, I think it, sort of, confirms some of our suspicions that we suggested over the last number of weeks when we talked about the Sabbath. But some of that was speculative and I think this, kind of, nails it down, almost as a kind of proof or at least a kind of proof that very early commentators, namely the rabbis who put the prayers together, seemed to see things very much the way we described them in A Tale of Two Names, at least as regards to Sabbath.

What I want to do is show you something which I think is fascinating. Prayer is one of those things which is, kind of, tough. Prayer is written in poetry and the words are, not just hard to understand, but sometimes seem, kind of, random and lacking meaning.

What I want to do with you is show you that -- let me kind of jump in. The structure of the prayers on Sabbath basically goes like this. I'm talking about Friday night prayers, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon. Basically, the way it works is you've got biblical verses that we want to talk about, they're going to form the heart of the prayers. On Friday night, those verses come from the creation story, "vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzeva'am." Those are the biblical verses that we're going to talk about Friday night prayers.

Sabbath morning prayers, the biblical verses are going to be from Shmot, they're going to be "v'shamru Bnei Yisrael et haShabbat." Those are going to be the biblical verses.

Then, what happened in the Standing Prayer, is that the rabbis who composed these prayers, probably the Anshei Knesset HaGdolah (the Men of the Great Assembly), from times of the late Second Temple, post destruction of the Second Temple, probably after the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis who composed these prayers, what they did is they composed a rabbinic text that introduces each of these biblical texts. Then that is going to form the main body of the prayers.

So on Friday night, that biblical text, we see on the screen over here, is going to be Atah Kidashta et Yom HaShvi'i LiShmecha (You sanctified the seventh day for your Name's sake). This over here is going to be the rabbinic text followed by the biblical text over here, Vayechulu (thus were finished). That's the way it works.

And then on Sabbath morning, we're going to have -- here, Sabbath morning, you have the same kind of thing. Here's the Standing Prayer, you've got Yismach Moshe (Moses rejoiced) as the rabbinic text introducing the biblical text of V'Shamru Bnei Yisrael et HaShabbat (And observe shall the Children of Israel the Sabbath).

Okay. So that's, kind of, the structure of the prayers. What I want to do is focus on the rabbinic text that they added to this biblical text. First of all, if we just stop and come up with some basic questions. Why did they pick Thus were Finished as the biblical text for Friday night and why did they pick And Observe after that as the biblical text for Sabbath morning?

Similarly, what's interesting is that when you get to Sabbath afternoon, the structure changes. There's only rabbinic text and there's no biblical text whatsoever. Which is strange, because you could come up with another biblical text if you really wanted to. You could have just taken the 10 Commandments which talks about the Sabbath and used it for Saturday afternoon. But we don't.

The question is why is that changed, why is there no biblical text, how come we chose the specific biblical text we did on Friday night and Sabbath morning.

But even more troublesome, is the nature of these rabbinic introductions. Because if you were composing a rabbinic introduction to biblical text, what would you say? Would you really have said Moses Rejoiced? This is something I addressed, actually, in the Aleph Beta video, this piece. So Moses Rejoiced itself is a strange thing. It is, as I mentioned in that Aleph Beta video, it's a Rube Goldberg-like introduction. If it were you and me and we were introducing And Observe, we could have had some sort of straightforward, two-line introduction. But here's this very flowery, very difficult to understand introduction, which basically goes like this.

"Yismach Moshe b'matnas chelko," Moses is very happy with his unique position in life. Why? "Ki eved ne'eman karata lo," because he was called a faithful servant. Okay. So he's called a faithful servant. "Klil tiferes b'rosho natata," by the way, he had a special crown that he got on his head. When did he get the crown? "B'amdo lefanecha al Har Sinai," when he stood before you on Mount Sinai.

By the way, it's speaking about Sinai, guess what he got on Mount Sinai, "U'shnei Luchot avanim horid b'yado," he came down with two Luchot, with two Tablets. And, speaking of the Tablets, guess what one of the commandments were, there were 10 commandments in there, one of them, "v'katuv bahem shmirat Shabbat," just happened to mention the Sabbath. Oh, speaking of the Sabbath, "v'chein ketuv b'Toratecha," elsewhere in the Torah (Hebrew Bible), not in the 10 Commandments part, but somewhere else, here is what it says about the Sabbath. "V'shamru Bnei Yisrael et haShabbat."

You see? This doesn't sound like -- it sounds like a very roundabout introduction to And Observe. This is the best you can do? It sounds like a stream of thought, kind of, compilation of ideas that has very little to do with And Observe.

So, we'll talk about that, but you have a similar kind of issue on Friday night. Take you back to Friday night. So here we're introducing Thus were Finished and then you have You Sanctified. So I want to start with you on Friday night, try to figure it out, and I want to suggest a theory to you right now.

The theory is that the rabbinic text that introduces the biblical text is not just some lofty poetic sounding stuff, but it's actually very carefully crafted commentary on the biblical text. Which is to say that the rabbis were trying to do two things, I think. They were trying to actually explain to you the meaning of the biblical text as they understood it. They wanted you to understand what did they understand about Thus were Finished, what did they understand about And Observe. You're going to hear it in the introduction. The introduction is nothing less than a very early commentary on the biblical text. They are going to explain to you how to read the biblical text.

In so doing, they're going to try to reveal to you something meaningful about Sabbath, a kind of secret perspective on the Sabbath, which you otherwise would be missing without their commentary. So that's, kind of, what they're going to do. So You Sanctified serves as a commentary on Thus were Finished, the biblical text from Genesis, Chapter 1, and Moses Rejoiced is going to serve as a commentary on And Observe, the biblical text in Exodus, 31.

The question that is, if this true what is Atah Echad (You are One) doing in the Sabbath afternoon Standing Prayer, because there's no biblical text associated with it. So we'll get to that, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

So to just begin to pick up on this. I want you to look over, take a moment to read through the verses of Thus were Finished and see how You Sanctified seems to be picking up on the themes of those verses. You can begin to see that. Then I want you to ask, okay, what is it that You Sanctified is picking up on in Thus were Finished and what is it adding to Thus were Finished that you wouldn't have seen were it not for You Sanctified. What's the extra information that you see? So let's just read the biblical text.

"Vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," the heavens and the earth and all of their hosts were finished, "vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i melachto asher asah," and God finished on the seventh day the work that He had done, "vayishbot bayom Hashvi'i mikol melachto asher asah," and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done, "vayevarech Elokim et yom hashvi'i vayekadeish oto," and He blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it, "ki vo shavat mikol melachto asher bara Elokim la'asot," because on it, He rested from all the melachah (creative work) that He had created to do.

That's the text. Go back to You Sanctified and show me how You Sanctified is picking up on some of these things. "Atah kidashta et yom hashvi'i liShmecha," You made holy the seventh day for Your Names, "tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz," the culmination for the purpose of all of heaven and earth, "u'beirachto mikol hayamim," and You blessed it more than any other day, "v'kidashto mikol hazmanim," and You sanctified it more than any other day, "v'chein katuv b'Toratecha," and so it's written in your Hebrew Bible.

Okay. So what are some of the things in You Sanctified that pick up on ideas in

Thus were Finished?

Audience Member: It's a superlative in comparison to others. The holiness and the blessing.

Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. So that's a commentary. But let's just stay simple for a moment. No. Just what's similar?

Audience Member: "U'beiractho mikol hayamim v'kidashto mikol hazmanim" is off "vayevarech Elokim et yom hashvi'i vayekadeish oto."

Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Good. You see how what we're hearing here is a commentary on the two things that G-d does with this day. What does He do with this day? "Vayevarech Elokim et yom hashvi'i vayekadeish oto," He blesses the day and He makes the day holy.

Comes along You Sanctified and also talks about blessing the day, "u'beirachto mikol hayamim v'kidashto mikol hazmanim," blessing the day and making it holy. It's picking up on the things of Thus were Finished, so that's a similarity. Okay. Good.

Audience Member: Both have "shamayim va'aretz."

Rabbi Fohrman: Good. You have "shamayim va'aretz" over here. "Atah kidashta et yom hashvi'i liShmecha tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz," and that's picking up on "shamayim v'ha'aretz" here in Thus were Finished, "vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am."

Audience Member: "Vayechulu" is "tachlit."

Rabbi Fohrman: Good. And even "vayechulu" is "tachlit." Fran correctly points out that this word over here, "tachlit," which we translate as purpose of or culmination of is actually also picking up on something in Thus were Finished, which is right over here. The verbs which are going to appear over and over in Thus were Finished are the verb chalah, Kaf-Lamed-Heh, "vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," and the heavens and earth and everything were finished, "vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i," God finished on the seventh day everything He had done. That is going to become "tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz," which is a noun form of that verb.

In other words, the heaven and earth, the culmination of or the finishing of "ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz," and all of the heaven and earth. Okay. Good. So that is what's similar about You Sanctified and Thus were Finished. But there's something different about it also. What other information does You Sanctified add that you wouldn't have seen if you were just reading Thus were Finished?

Audience Member: ...mikol hayamim and zman?

Rabbi Fohrman: Good. One thing is that there seems to be this very subtle addition of a commentary, as it were, on what it means that God blessed the seventh day. What does it mean that God blessed the seventh day? You get some extra information in You Sanctified, which is "beirachto mikol hayamim." It means that God blessed it more than any other day, or set it aside, or somehow established it as dominant over other days, and that it was blessed more than any other day. That's one thing you hear. Similarly, you hear that for kedushah (sanctity), "v'kidashto mikol hazmanim."

But you also hear something also about sanctity in the beginning. This is "atah kidashta et yom hashvi'i liShmecha," so you hear that as well. So if you were wondering what does it mean that God sanctified the day, along comes You Sanctified and says what it means is that He sanctified it. "LiShmecha," for Himself, or for His Namesake. That's what it means.

Just to pick up and tell you that while the rabbis' commentary, the meaning of the rabbis' commentary, at this moment is obscure, they are picking up on some real issues. Like, one real issue is, let's say somebody stopped you on the plane and said okay, so I know how to read these words, but what does it mean that God blessed the seventh day and what does it mean that He sanctified the seventh day. What does that even mean?

So that question is actually a very perplexing question. First of all, what does it even mean to bless a day? How do you even bless a day? I don't even know what those words mean. I can say Bobby, I could bless you, you should have a good life, you should have nachas (gratification) from your grandchildren, you should have health and happiness, all the good things. We invent a blessing.

Audience Member: Amen.

Rabbi Fohrman: Amen, that's a wonderful thing. That's great. That's a blessing. Bobby is a real person, she's there, I'm saying things, I'm wishing well. I understand what it means to wish Bobby well and to hope that for her and to bless her.

What does it mean to bless a day? If I'm God, how would I bless a day? A day isn't a thing. A day is a period of time that happens to be here. And how would you even bless a day? What is it that you would bless?

Audience Member: Sanctity. "Kidashta."

Audience Member: Mekor habrachah is the source of all good, an expansion of all good, and you say the Sabbath is the source of all good and it could expand into the whole week.

Rabbi Fohrman: Well, you say that's blessing. Blessing is the source of all good.

Audience Member: In a brachah (blessing), you say baruch Atah Hashem (blessed are You, God), we tend to define it very simply as You are a blessing. When we learn about blessing, basically it says God, You are the source of all good, all blessing. You use that here, it redefines the phrase.

Rabbi Fohrman: Well, just to challenge you, are you saying any time I bless something, I'm defining it as the source of all blessing? Any time I bless something? If I bless you, what does it mean to bless you? That's different. So to say that God is blessed might be to call Him the Source of all blessing, but what then does it mean when God blesses something? If God would bless you, it doesn't mean -- So if He bestows good on you and bestows good on Fran and bestows good on Bobby, what does it mean to bestow good on the Sabbath? I understand what it means to bestow good on Bobby. Bestowing good on Bobby means she should have a good life, she should have this. Sabbath should have a good life? The Sabbath should be happier?

(Interposing 00:17:19 - 00:17:29).

Audience Member: Vayinafash.

Rabbi Fohrman: One second. So you're not talking about sanctity. Some might say well, you know what blessing means, blessing means that God made this very holy. He took this day and made it very, very special, made it very holy. How do you know that's not true? That's not what it means that God blessed the day. How do you know? Because God also made the day holy. God did two things. He blessed the day and made it holy. Both aren't the same thing. So whatever making holy means, that's different than blessing.

The question is what are these things. What does it mean to make a day holy, how does a day become holy, what does that -- it's very psychedelic. What would that even mean? What does it mean to bless a day that's different than making it holy? Very difficult to understand concepts.

So the sages our going to come along, they're going to give us a hint. They're going to say when it comes to making a day holy, you need to know that means that He made the day holy for Himself, "atah kidashta et yom hashvi'i liShmecha," He made it holy for Himself. That's what you need to know.

And when it comes to blessing the day, you need to know that He blessed it more than all the other days, "u'beirachto mikol hayamim." He established some kind of dominance in this blessing that it was blessed more than, almost as if the days are in competition with one another and the Sabbath day wins out and is blessed more than all of the other days, whatever that means. This is the rabbis' commentary on what these things mean.

Now, the rabbis were also commenting on something else. They tell us one more thing which seems to be nowhere in Thus were Finished. What's the big reveal they make in You Sanctified, which seems to be nowhere in the verses of Thus were Finished?

Audience Member: "Tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz."

Rabbi Fohrman: "Tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz." "Tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz," we translate -- and, by the way this has made it into the popular imagination about Sabbath. If someone were to tell you tell me something about Sabbath, you'd say Sabbath, Sabbath is the purpose of all of creation. Because that's what it says. "Tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz," it's the purpose of all of creation.

When we say that, the words roll off our tongue, and they come from here. Now, you'll pardon me but what does that even mean. You're telling me Sabbath is the culmination of all of creation. Really? You'll look at me, like, resting on this day or a day of rest is the purpose of everything that you made. It just sounds like such a strange thing to say. Even if you would say it, how would you know it's true? You'd say, you don't know it's true, the rabbis are just saying it, the rabbis are making up, the rabbis are telling you this is how you have to understand Sabbath.

I want to argue that no, the rabbis aren't making this stuff up. They're not just, like, coming with this article of faith that you have to believe that Sabbath is the culmination of everything. They are getting it from somewhere. They are reading verses in a certain way which is forcing them to arrive at this understanding.

The challenge I have for you is what are they seeing in Thus were Finished, they are seeing something in Thus were Finished, which is forcing them into this understanding which has major theological implications and is a mind-bending thing, that Sabbath is actually the culmination, or actually the purpose, of all of creation. There's some sort of culminating thing. Which is very strange to say. You wouldn't say Sabbath is a culminating thing. After He worked, He rested. It's the greatest thing in the world, that God rested, it's the culmination of everything He made? Where do you see that in Thus were Finished. That's my challenge to you.

Audience Member: "Ki vo shavat mikol melacthto asher bara."

Rabbi Fohrman: No. "Ki vo shavat mikol melachto asher bara" just says that He rested, that's all. Doesn't tell me it's the culmination of everything.

Audience Member: Talk about world two, talk about world two.

Rabbi Fohrman: All right. I get that. But what forced the rabbis into this kind of understanding? I want to dive into Thus were Finished and try to read Thus were Finished as the rabbis read it and try to understand what was forcing them to say what they were saying.

Let's forget about You Sanctified for a moment and let's just go into Thus were Finished. I think the rabbis noticed certain problems with Thus were Finished that were forcing them into the reading they have. Let's just read Thus were Finished and entertain the basic problems. Again, what I want you to do -- this is tough, because you all know this text, you say it every Friday night, so you know it by heart. So you have to erase everything you know about this, read it like for the first time and say if this was the first time I was reading these words, what would be strange about these words.

One thing that's strange is what does it mean later on when it says God blessed the Sabbath and God sanctified it. We don't know what those words mean. Very strange. That's one thing the rabbis are picking up on. But what else is strange? So let's read.

"Vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," and the earth and the heavens and all of their hosts were finished. Thus were finished, the reason why it's plural it's because it's referring to heavens and earth which are plural. So heavens and earth and all of their hosts were finished. "Vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i melachto asher asah," and God finished on the seventh day His creative work that He had made, "vayishbot bayom hashvi'i mikol melachto asher asah," and He rested on the seventh day from all of the labor that He did.

Any problems so far? First of all, it's repetitive. Bobby, what's --

Audience Member: "Hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am." What did they rest from?

Rabbi Fohrman: They didn't rest. "Vayechulu" is thus were finished. "Vayechulu" is passive, thus were finished, they were finished now. So Bobby's pointing out that -- Bobby, what do you think is repetitive?

"Vayechulu" and "vayechal." It sounds a little repetitive, because first you tell me everything is done and then you're telling me that everything is done.

Audience Member: One is the adjective and one is the verb.

Audience Member: vayishbos and again --

Rabbi Fohrman: First of all, don't you think -- if it were the case that one is the -- don't you also think it should have been switched a little bit? "Vayechal," first God finished everything, and then you say "vayechulu," everything was finished. But instead it's different. "Vayechulu" is everything was done, and then "vayechal," as if everything wasn't done and God is, like, finishing off.

Audience Member: Right, you don't really need "vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzeva'am." You should start it with "vayechal Elokim bayom hashevi'i."

Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Now, the truth is it's worse than this. It's actually very bad. Just to make life very difficult for you, I'm going to challenge you and ask you let's just read this one sentence inside. "Vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," just that sentence, and the heavens and the earth and everything on it were finished. Let's say that's all you read and you're reading the Hebrew Bible and you're up to that sentence. Now let me ask you, when did that happen? When did that happen? When was it all done?

Audience Member: Day four.

Rabbi Fohrman: No. It does say. Let's go back to the actual text and read in the actual text and you tell me what you think it means. Here we are, we're in Genesis, 2. Where are we? Let's just understand where we are. Okay. Let's just go back to the fifth day. God made the fish. Here we are, it's the fifth day, God just made the fish, "vayehi erev vayehi boker yom chamishi." What does that mean? Fifth day's over. Okay. Sixth day.

"Vayomer Elokim totzei ha'aretz nefesh chayah," so we have all the animals. We've got all the animals and then "na'aseh adam," let's make man, this is all on the sixth day, God blesses them, blah blah blah, and then finally let's look at Verse 31.

Now, after creating man and after blessing them, "vayar Elokim et ko lasher asah," now God looks at all the other days -- God looks at what He's done and pronounces it good. Now, on the sixth day, God looks at "kol asher asah," everything that He had done, meaning not just the stuff on the sixth day but stuff on all the days, "v'hinei," and He says, "tov me'od."

It's not just tov (good) like every day, it's good, but you have "tov me'od," it's very good. Why? Because this is everything and it all interacts and it does what it's supposed to do. So you get the feeling that what are we talking about now? This is the culmination of creation. We're done. "Vayehi erev vayehi boker yom hashishi." And "vayehi erev vayehi boker yom hashishi" means sixth day is done.

Now, you get these words. What would you think they mean? "Vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," and everything was done. When was it done? On the sixth day. That's why "vayar Elokim et kol asher asah," God looks at everything that He's done. That's why God said it was very good, because "vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," because bottom line is He just finished everything. So I just explained to you why He said it was very good.

So, when was everything finished, boys and girls? Sixth day. Great. Hold on one second. No. just right now. This is the only verse I'm reading.

Audience Member: After the sixth day was completed. The next moment.

Rabbi Fohrman: No. That's not what it says. If you were just reading this, that's not how you would see it. You would say that Verse 1 in Chapter 2 is explaining in essence the last verse. Why was it that "vayar Elokim et kol asher asah," that God looked at everything that He had done and declared that it was very good? Why didn't He just look at what He did on the sixth day and say that it was good? Why is He looking at everything that He had done and declaring it very good?

The answer is because "vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," it was all done, so now it was time to stand back and look at everything and say ah, it's very good. Because it was all done. "Vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tza'am."

Now the problem that the rabbis were facing, I believe, the problem that any reader faces, is how do I read the next verse? Because the next verse says "vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i melachto asher asah." You read that and it hits you like a ton of bricks, which is one second, He's done. Why is He done? What do you mean, when did He finish? He was finished on the sixth day. That's why He -- because it was all good. No. Now He's finishing on the seventh day? I thought He finished on the sixth day. He's finished on the seventh day?

This is a real problem. Now, Rashi's bothered by this problem. Rashi has two answers. One answer is well, maybe He finished at the very end of the sixth day, going into the seventh day, and it's kind of like the seventh day but it really is the sixth day. That's one possible answer.

The other possible answer is actually the answer which gives rise to how the rabbis read this. We'll get to that in a moment. Let's just keep on reading. That's one problem. What's God finishing on the seven day? There's nothing to finish. "Vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i melachto asher asah." He's finishing things off on the seventh day? I don't get it.

Now it gets even more perplexing, because the next part of the verse seems to contradict the first part of the verse. Which is, okay, fine, so I guess I was wrong, He's actually finishing some stuff up on the seventh day. Okay, fine. Now I read "vayishbot bayom hashvi'i mikol melachto asher asah," no, He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He did. Ah, so He was resting from all the work He did on the seventh day. So what do you mean He's finishing? He can't be finishing His work and resting His work in the same day. Was He finishing things up or was He --

Audience Member: He could be resting after He finished.

Rabbi Fohrman: Could be, but then this word "mikol melachto" is strange. "Vayishbot bayom hashvi'i mikol melachto," and He rested from all of His work. It sounds like, if I had to define the seventh day, the seventh day was a day of rest. But not really, because first He was working, so it's only a partial day of rest. So maybe on Sabbath it should be okay to do a bunch of creative work and just rest for part of the day, because that's what God did. Is that what we do? No, we rest the whole day. But God didn't rest the whole day.

Audience Member: We're saying He created rest on the seventh day.

Rabbi Fohrman: Ah. So it could be. So let's just understand what that would mean. Okay. So these are the problems the rabbis were facing. I want to argue there were two -- this is the main issue they're facing. There are two more issues in the text that I think they were struggling with as well. One is, who gets the blessings of pru u'revu (be fruitful and multiply)? Man. It turns out it's not just man. Who else gets the blessing of be fruitful and multiply?

Audience Member: Fish.

Rabbi Fohrman: Turns out that the fish and the birds also get the blessing of be fruitful and multiply. Anybody else? The answer is it's just them. It's just the fish, the birds, seemingly, and man. Somebody got left out. In between fish being created and man being created, something else was created. Animals. Animals, land animals, if you look carefully, do not get the blessing of be fruitful and multiply.

Now, it doesn't mean they don't have children, they do, but they don't get the blessing of be fruitful and multiply. Why? That's an interesting question.

Finally, there's one more question that's puzzling about the end of creation. It has to do with these words, "vayehi erev vayehi boker yom hashishi."

You ever wonder why Kiddush (Sanctification) begins on Friday night with "vayehi erev vayehi boker yom hashishi" and not vayehi erev vayehi boker yom hashvi'i (there was evening and there was morning seven days)? The answer is because it's not in the Hebrew Bible, leading to the next question, why not?

Sabbath is the only day that it never says there was evening and there was morning. Why not? Every other day has a there was evening and there was morning, but not the seventh day. Why? What does there was evening and there was morning say? Let's try to puzzle together the answer to this.

There was evening and there was morning is the Hebrew Bible's way of saying that's over now. So if there's no there was evening and there was morning seven days, what does that tell you? it was never over. That underlies, that's the textual proof for what I suggested to you in A Tale of Two Names, in our previous things, that the seventh day never ends from God's perspective.

I said to you where is God now in time, which day is it now, or which day of creation is it now. Is it the 7,000,537th day? What day are we up to now? The answer is for God, at least, it's the seventh day. The seventh day never ended. There was never a there was evening and there was morning on the seventh day.

Once you see that, it actually changes everything. Here's why. Normally, when you think of days, you think when did time begin, when did days begin. It began on the first day of creation, and then we did day one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and then after that we went back to Sunday again, and there was day one, and there was day two. That was the beginning of the week, this whole cycle.

But now you see that that's not true, because the seventh day never ended. That would only be true if the seventh day ended, then you would go back to Sunday to start all over again. But if the seventh day never ended, it means that that block of time, which is called the days of creation, was its own thing. It's its own time, as it were, these primal days of creation, and the seventh day lasts forever and our time mimics those seventh day but it's its own separate timeline. Our time is separate from that. That seventh day is its own special thing.

Now let's look at this. Part of the problem with understanding that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified the seventh day, the problem is -- one problem is okay, what does it mean that He blessed, what does it mean that He sanctified. Translate those words.

But it's deeper than that. It's not just that I don't understand what you would say to a day to bless it or sanctify it. The problem is that a day isn't anything. In other words, you are something. I can touch you, I can feel you, you have this defined -- you're a thing. I can bless you because there is something to bless. But a day is just a certain period of time. How do you bless a period of time? It doesn't sound like something that could be a thing that could accept a blessing.

Comes along the Hebrew Bible and if the Hebrew Bible tell you that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, the Hebrew Bible must consider a day a thing. It actually must be considered something, otherwise you couldn't say anything about it. It's a thing. So where do we come up with this notion that it's a thing?

Here, I believe, is the rabbis great chiddush (novel approach) on how they resolved all these problems. They resolved all these problems, primarily, with how they read one letter. One letter. There's a letter in Thus were Finished that they say doesn't mean what you think it means. The letter is Bet. Bet. Can you find a Bet that the rabbis changed the meaning or said -- "bayom hashvi'i."

Now, when you understand that letter, how do you understand it? We all think that it means on the seventh day, answering the question when. When did God finish creating everything? The answer is He finished on the seventh day. That interpretation is getting you into a lot of trouble, because I already know when everything was done and it's very clear that the answer to that is on the sixth day. Come along the sages and they say that Bet doesn't mean what you think it means. It doesn't mean on. It means the alternative thing that Bet can mean, which means by, through, or with.

Now, how does that entirely change the verse if you translate the Bet that way? It's not telling you when, it's telling you how.

Audience Member: By reaching the seventh day.

Rabbi Fohrman: By reaching the seventh day. So in other words, this is how you read it. Let's start from the beginning. The answer is "vayechulu" and "vayechal" are actually talking about two different things now. We think they're talking about the same thing and therefore there's a contradiction when were things done. Turns out that "vayechulu" and "vayechal" are talking about two completely separate things.

Here's what "vayechulu" is talking about. It's talking about heavens and earth and everything in it. It's telling you "vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," heaven and earth and everything in it were done on the sixth day. But guess what? God still wasn't done. Heaven was done, earth was done, all of the hosts of heaven and earth was done, but God still wasn't done with creative work. God actually needed to create one last thing in order to be done.

"Vayechal Elokim," so God finished, "bayom hashvi'i," through the advent of the seventh day, "melachto asher asah," all of His creative work. I.e., there was one more thing to create. And what was it? It wasn't actually menuchah (rest), it was a day. God finished creation with the advent of the seventh day. God brought a day into existence.

Now, you say a day, that's just a marker of time. That's not a thing. No, it's a thing. In other words, here's how the rabbis understand it.

In creation, don't make the mistake of thinking that all God did in creation was creating the stuff of the universe. The stuff of the universe is heaven and earth and everything in it. That's the thing that's obvious that God created because you can touch it and you can feel it. But the truth is that God also created the environment for the universe. The environment for the universe is actually space and time itself. That's also created. And science corroborates this. Big Bang Theory says that space and time themselves were created with creation. There was no space and time before creation. So part of creation is the environment for creation, space and time.

Which means, that every single day is a created thing, too. It's the time environment for the stuff that gets created. Now, on all the other days, the Hebrew Bible is never explicit about the day being created, because there's so much stuff that gets created that your focus is just on the stuff that gets created on the day and you lose focus on the fact that the day itself was being created. When do you see the day itself being created? Only on the seventh day because there was no stuff that was being created, so you see the day being created.

So "vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i," so God brought into existence once more day and in doing that, that bringing into existence of that final day, was -- it wasn't an addition to heaven and earth and all their hosts, that was done, because heaven and earth and all their hosts are the stuff of creation, but it was another aspect of the environment of creation, it was another day that was created. With that, He finished everything.

Now you might ask, well, why did God do that? If God was finished with the stuff of creation, so why did He bother brining in another elemental day of creation on which He wasn't going to do anything? The answer to that comes in the next verse, which is "vayishbot mikol hashvi'i mikol melachto asher asah," that on that day, in that day of the seventh day, God rested from all the work that He had done. Okay.

Audience Member: When God blessed the seventh day, He validated its creation.

Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. We'll get to bless in a moment. So now, what does it mean "vayishbot bayom hashvi'i mikol melachto," God came to rest on that day? Take a look later on where it says "vayekadeish oto," God sanctified the day, why, "ki vo shavat mikol melachto asher bara Elokim," because on it He rested.

Here, too, we think -- it sounds repetitive. You already told me He rested. No. What are you telling me now? You're telling me -- the way we normally understand this verse is we think why did God think this day was so special. He thought the day was so special because He rested on it. He thought the day was so special He decided to wave His magic want and sanctify it. He made a puff of orange smoke that sanctified the day because He was so happy because He rested on the day.

I want to argue that's not what the text means. The key means inasmuch as. Which is to say, what is the definition of sanctity? What does sanctity really mean?

Audience Member: Separation.

Rabbi Fohrman: And separated for what?

Audience Member: Holiness.

Rabbi Fohrman: And what does holiness --

Audience Member: Different from everything else.

Rabbi Fohrman: Yes. But different is not that this is purple and this is -- the answer is it's divine. Now, what do you mean it's divine? So when did things become holy? At the burning bush, Moses approaches the burning bush and God says take off your shoes, it's holy ground. What made the ground holy? Who made the ground holy? The answer is it is God's place. God was there, God was manifesting Himself in the burning bush in some kind of way. Whenever God comes into this world, that creates holiness.

What does that mean? That means that when God comes into the world, the world is not unaffected by God's presence. The world is affected by God's presence. Which means to say that when the Creator comes into the world, God has the ability or God makes that part of the world His embassy.

What do I mean by that? What I mean is if you look at an embassy, you go to Washington, you go on K Street, you look at all the embassies, they look like they're part of Washington, D.C. They feel like Washington D.C., they look like Washington D.C., but they're not actually part of Washington D.C., legally speaking. Legally speaking, each embassy is the property of that country. So it's a little piece of that country in our world.

That's what sanctity is. Sanctity is when God takes over a part our world and makes it a part of His world. Take off your shoes, it's holy ground. Or the mountain, Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai was also holy. If you think about that Mount Sinai, that Mount Sinai you couldn't touch it. If you touched it, you would die. Why? Because God's so mean? It's revelation and if He wants to reveal Himself and He's so mean that if you get too close, He's going to kill you? what a mean Guy. Why does He kill you when He wants to get close to you?

The answer is no, the mountain was a very dangerous thing, which is why God tells Moses over and over again to go down and warn the people not to touch the mountain. Because it feels like a mountain and it looks like a mountain but it's part of God's world.

What's God's world? God is from beyond space and time, so He took over this mountain, which means the mountain is beyond space and time, because it's sanctified.

Well, if you reach out and touch something which is beyond space and time, what happens to you? You die because you don't live beyond space and time. You live in space and time. So sanctity is a tough thing. But what happens is it means, when something becomes sanctified, when God is somewhere.

Now, God is beyond space and time. It turns out that in creation, God decided to be in two places. One in space, and the other in time. The place in space -- God decides hey, in creation I'm beyond space and time, but I want to hang out with these people so I want to be in their world. But I can't really, because I'm not part of space and time. But okay, I'm going to make myself a summer home in their world. I'm going to make a summer home in space and I'm going to make a summer home in time. What was God's summer home that He made in space?

Audience Member: The Mishkan (Tabernacle) and Sabbath.

Rabbi Fohrman: The Tabernacle is not correct because there was no Tabernacle in the beginning. Tabernacle eventually is true when we find they make the Tabernacle. But before the Tabernacle, what did God make in His world where He can hang out? The answer is the Garden of Eden. That's "vayishme'u et kol Hashem Elokim mithaleich bagan." It's like the Voice of God is strolling through the garden like the master is strolling through his place. This is God's place in the world, in space.

Turns out that the Being from beyond space and time didn't just make a place in space for Himself, He made a space in time for Himself also. What was that? That was the seventh day.

The reason why God made the seventh day was because He wanted to be there. He wanted a place in this world, in this world of time. So He decided to make a whole special day to do nothing but be there. That's "vayishbot bayom hashvi'i mikol melachto."

And as we talked about before, this is an important point, it's not like God wasn't there in the other seven days of creation, but there's a different between God being there in the seventh day and God being there in the six days that makes it "kidashto mikol hazmanim." The other days were sanctified but they weren't as sanctified as the seventh day was.

Why? God was there in the other six days but not the same He was in the seventh day. How was God more there on the seventh day than He was on day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5, day 6?

(Interposing 00:48:58 - 00:49:04).

Rabbi Fohrman: The answer is, the other days, what was God doing? He was making things. On the seventh day, what was God doing? He was resting. Now, you know how. That's the difference. The difference between doing and being. As we talked about before, whenever you do, it compromises your sense of being. You feel this, it's not just God.

You're running around, all week long, you don't feel like you have -- you're looking at your cellphone and you pick up your phone 150 times a day, and you're texting to this one, and you forgot that errand, and you're here and you don't know if you're going or you're coming, and you come back and you're exhausted and you fall asleep, and you wake up in the morning and you do it all again. Finally, Sabbath comes and you say ah, thank God for Sabbath. You feel more present than you've ever felt in any of the other days.

Why? Because on all the other days you're scrambling around and you're moving and you're doing. So you're there but you're not really there. You're only there when you're not doing anything, you just are.

I've talked to you before about this mathematically. Mathematically, this is the most paradox. The paradox is whenever you're moving, you aren't really anywhere. Such that if the cop stops you and says you were going 100 miles an hour when the school was out, and you say me, when. He says right here, on the radar gun, it says you were going 110 miles an hour and the school's out. But officer, at that point in time, I wasn't moving at all. It was just a point in time.

This is the problem with calculus, which is that at any point in time -- he'll put you in jail anyway. The answer is that in our world, the only time you're actually -- when I capture you doing things, you're in motion, but when you're in motion I can't point to you and say there you are. I can only point to and say there you are in some timeless moment called a point in time.

So what did God do? God took a little bit of timelessness -- a little bit of spacelessness and timelessness and injected it into the garden and a little bit of timelessness and spacelessness and injected it into the space and time called Sabbath. He says this is the place that I am more than anywhere else, "v'kidashto mikol hazmanim." It became sanctified simply because God rested on the day, which is the meaning of "vayekadeish oto." Why? "Ki vo shavat." "Ki vo shavat" isn't I decided to wave my puff of orange smoke, "ki vo shavat," it's that it's how it became sanctified. It became sanctified inasmuch as God rested and was there in that day.

Now we get to the final question. It turns out, if this is true, that this is what the sages mean by "tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz," why is Sabbath "tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz?" "Tachlit" is from the language of "vayechulu." It's literally what the Hebrew Bible itself says. Go back to the verses.

"Vayechulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzva'am," after heaven and earth and everything was created, there was one more thing that was the apex of everything that needed to be created. What was it? It was a day, "vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i melachato asher asah," God finished everything that He had done, He culminated His creation with bringing one more day into the world.

Hence, Sabbath is "tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz." All "tachlit" is, is the noun form of the world "vayechal." So when the verse says "vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi'i," He completed all His creative work with the advent of the seventh day, the sages say yeah, so the seventh day is the apex of everything. It's the most amazing thing in the world. It's the crowning jewel of creation, the last thing that's created, this day on which God rests.

We have one final puzzle to figure out, which is the meaning of God's blessing the day. If that's what it means to say that God sanctified the day, because He was there, what does it mean to say that God blessed the day?

The way I read the verse is that the key over here goes on "vayekadeish" but not on "vayevarech." The way to read it is "vayevarech Elokim et yom hashvi'i" comma, God blessed the seventh day, "vayekadeish oto," and He sanctified that day. How did it get sanctified? "Ki vo shavat mikol melachto asher bara Elokim la'asot."

What does it mean that God blessed the seventh day? Now, let's just take a very simple way of understanding that. If you wanted to avoid theology or you just wanted to be a very simple Jew and you wanted to figure out what does it possibly mean that God blessed the seventh day, where would you look for answers?

Audience Member: In your activities.

Rabbi Fohrman: I just want to know what the word blessing means. I want to define the word. I will have to go back -- it's not to the first time it mentions, because that's a heebie-jeebie thing, the first time, just simple. I would have to go back to earlier precedents, I would have to go back to other times. Do I ever know what blessing means? Has it ever been used before? Let me see where else it was used.

Turns out, the word blessing actually has been used in the context of creation. Other things got blessed. What else got blessed? The answer is man got blessed. It wasn't just man. Fish got blessed. It turns out, and here's the amazing thing, that in both cases they got exactly the same blessing. Be fruitful and multiply, but it wasn't just be fruitful and multiply. If you actually go back to the blessing it was be fruitful and multiply u'milu (fill).

Both fish and man got that. If you go back to the verse again. Here, look, you see this. And God blessed man and said to man be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Now go back. That's on the sixth day, go to the fifth day. Here's the fish. "Vayevarech otam Elokim leimar pru u'revu u'milu," be fruitful and multiply and fill the seas, fill the oceans.

So you see there's a formula for blessing. Isn't it interesting that the first two blessings were exactly the same? Be fruitful and multiply and fill.

Now here's the daring experiment, I believe, which the rabbis really went out on a limb in their interpretation, but I think it's warranted what they said. Which is okay, if there's three blessings and the first two happen to be exactly the same, what might you infer about the third? It's the same also.

So now you could say one second, Fohrman, if it's the same, so why didn't they just say it like the first two? If you really mean it's the same, so just like the first two we heard it was be fruitful and multiply and fill, so the third blessing is somehow, I don't even know what that would mean, be fruitful and multiply and fill about the Sabbath, but if it were true, then why doesn't it say it?

The answer, I might humbly suggest is, what do we know about the Sabbath? Why do you know the nature of the blessing of fish and man but you don't know the nature of the blessing of the Sabbath?

Rabbi Fohrman: The answer is that you don't need to know. Why? Because who's the Sabbath for? It's for God. Why did God make the day? Just read the text. Why did God make the day?

Audience Member: For Him.

Rabbi Fohrman: It's for Him, so that He can rest on it. That's what it means when the sages say, "atah kidashta et yom hashvi'i liShmecha," You made holy this day for Yourself. It was for You. You wanted a place to hang out in the world of space and time.

In other words, the difference between everything else in creation and the Sabbath is everything else, the heaven and earth and all their hosts is for who? Us, the stuff being created. But there was one more thing that wasn't for us, it was just for Him. There's another day that nothing else is being created. He didn't make it for us. He made it because He wanted a summer home. He set it aside for Himself and He made it Himself by resting there.

So if it's His, the Hebrew Bible is telling us in shorthand and He blessed it. Why don't we know the nature of the blessing? Because it's none of your business what the nature of the blessing is. It's God's business. God's just saying you should know I blessed this day.

Now, if you're so nosy that you really want to say oh, but God, I really want to understand, what's it like for You that it was blessed. So you could figure it out if you want. You could just extrapolate it's the same thing as the other ones.

Now, what would that mean? What would it even mean to say -- let's say we say okay, fine, we don't hear about the blessing because it's God thing but it's the same thing, be fruitful and multiply and fill. Let's just understand -- let's just take the blessing and create a function out of it. Fran, can you please explain to us what that would mean? Create a function out of it and just create the formula.

What is the blessing? The blessing, extrapolated out of any particular thing, is be fruitful and multiply and fill. Fill what?

Audience Member: The earth.

Rabbi Fohrman: No. Fill the earth is only for man. Fill the ocean is for fish. So, if I say neither ocean nor land, fill what? Blessing as a function always means fill. If I just express the function, the formula is be fruitful and multiply and fill your native habitat. Whatever it is that's your habitat, fill it. That's the function.

So if I'm blessing fish, what's their habitat? Water and ocean. So what do I bless them? Be fruitful and multiply and fill your habitat which is the waters. Okay. Now I'm blessing man. I say okay, man, you fill your habitat. Be fruitful and multiply and fill what, your land. So be fruitful and multiply and fill the land.

So now I'm going to answer to why animals didn't get this blessing. Why? Land animals didn't get the blessing. Why did land animals not get the blessing? The answer is we got the blessing. You can't give more than one being this blessing because the blessing is fill your habitat, so if your habitat is land, you can't tell another creature to fill that habitat.

It's true, but the idea is man, as the apex predator, has the ability to fill his habitat at will, whereas animals are going to be constricted in that man is going to use the environment for his progeny. So the animals are going to have to work around that, ultimately. Which you see now is true. I mean, like, as time goes on, that's more and more true.

Okay. So if that's the case -- yeah.

Audience Member: Is that the motive of the nachash (snake)?

Rabbi Fohrman: Possibly. An interesting notion. Could that be the motive of the snake, which is that we were actually in competition with chayat hasadeh (land animals) so the snake feels that competition. Now, by the way, you understand so there is a competitive notion in blessing. We got a blessing more than any other land creature. So, now let's go to Sabbath.

If Sabbath got this blessing -- let's leave aside be fruitful and multiply for a moment. Let's apply the function. Fill, to Sabbath, would be fill your habitat, Sabbath. Now, what's the habitat of Sabbath? What is Sabbath? It's a day, it's a part of time. So its habitat is time. So what does it mean fill your habitat? It means fill your time. What do we know about Sabbath? There's no "vayehi erev vahehi boker," which means it filled its habitat, it never ended.

It is the one everlasting day of creation. All the other days of creation recede but not Sabbath. Sabbath is there and therefore "beirachto mikol hayamim," You blessed it and made it ascendant over everything else in its habitat, the same way that man is ascendant over everything else in its habitat, i.e., land animals. This day is ascendant. All the other days fade into the past. The one everlasting part of the primal seven days of creation which stays, is the day that God rests and the day that God is and is His way of coming into our world.

If you ever want to know where God is in the world, He's in that last primal seventh day that somehow never ended. Which is not the same as our seven days, not the same as our Sabbath.

There's one more mystery to figure out and with this I'll leave you. That is, okay, so that's what fill means. The fill means fill your environment. But what does be fruitful and multiply mean for Sabbath? If you're telling me that the blessing is always the same blessing and it's always be fruitful and multiply and fill and it was the same blessing for the Sabbath, we just didn't hear about it because it was none of our business but actually was that same blessing, then there is a secret in this Sabbath, a very, very profound secret, scary secret about the seventh day.

It got the same blessing as fish, it got the same blessing as man. What was the blessing that Sabbath got? To multiply, to have children. The Sabbath had a child. The Sabbath was pregnant, as it were. It could have a child, it would have a child. It was forecast that it would have a child. What was the child of Sabbath? What was the child of Sabbath?

Now, understand what we mean by the Sabbath. The Sabbath we're talking about so far in Thus were Finished is Who's Sabbath? God's Sabbath. When is it? On an everlasting seventh day. What aren't we talking about in Thus were Finished? We're not talking about the Sabbath that you and I know and love, the Sabbath we celebrate in our world of time, every seventh day of ours, that does end.

Audience Member: "Mei'ein Olam Habah."

Rabbi Fohrman: It is "mei'ein Olam Habah." But what is God's Sabbath? It is truly Olam Haba (the World to Come). That is God's place in our world. That is this timeless part of the world. Our Sabbath is "mei'ein Olam Habah," is a little taste of that, because our Sabbath is the child. That is And Observe. That is the morning prayer of And Observe. The And Observe is the birth story of the Sabbath.

So Thus were Finished is the forecast that the Sabbath is pregnant, which is to say that it's not just going to be that God has a Sabbath. God has a Sabbath, but interestingly the only one who knows about that is you the reader. Who doesn't know about that Sabbath? Who's hanging out in the world at that time? There were people. Adam and Eve. You ever noticed that they were never told about the Sabbath? They were never told about the Sabbath. Why? Because it was God's Sabbath. It wasn't for them. It was for Him.

Eventually, in history, there would come a time when humans would celebrate their version of the Sabbath and that moment in time was the moment of And Observe, in Exodus, 31, and, if you look carefully at Exodus, 31, you'll see it's actually a birth story, literally a birth story.

What is birth? Birth is when there's one being and out of that being emerges another being. You actually see that story in And Observe. Out of God's Sabbath emerges a child. That's the story of And Observe, but we'll get to that next week. So I'll see you then.

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