March 13, 2022

Yevamot 6

As part of the Gemara’s pursuit in finding proof for how various mitzvot override others, today’s daf (Yevamot 6a) cites a Beraita which teaches that though, based on the principle that a positive mitzvah can override a negative mitzvah (עשה דוחה לא תעשה), we may have thought that the building of the Temple overrides the laws of Shabbat, we learn from Vayikra 16:30: אֶת שַׁבְּתֹתַי תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּמִקְדָּשִׁי תִּירָאוּ אֲנִי ה’ – ‘Keep My Sabbaths and revere My Sanctuary; I am the Lord’ that this is not the case, and therefore the observance of Shabbat overrides the building of the Temple.
But then the Gemara (Yevamot 7a-b) adds what I believe to be a very powerful and often overlooked point, which is that ‘just as the observance of Shabbat stems not from the awe we have of Shabbat, but rather, [from our awe] for the Being (i.e. God) who commanded us about the Shabbat, so too, the awe that we have of the Sanctuary stems not from the awe we have of the Sanctuary, but rather, [from our awe] for the Being (i.e. God) who commanded us about the Sanctuary.’
And why is this such a powerful point? Because all too often we equate the holy times, or holy places, with the ultimate source of holy – to the extent that we forget to focus on God and only focus on the time and place. And as a result, our lack of ‘G-d-consciousness’ – especially in times and places where our sensitivity to the holy has the potential of reaching even greater heights – can lead us to confuse ritual with faith, and religion with spirituality.
Yes we must revere the Shabbat, and yes we must revere the sanctuary. But even more important is that we remember why – because failure to do so can make Shabbat (holy time) and the synagogue (holy place) become reasons why people feel disconnected from God, while doing so make Shabbat and the synagogue agents that can help us enrich and strengthen our relationship with God.
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