Obama's Chief of Staff Will Find Ways To Serve and Observe
By Rabbi Ethan Tucker
Published January 19, 2012, issue of January 27, 2012.
I hold two truths to be self-evident: First, the Jewish people and the world need Shabbat like never before. Second, the Torah intends for Jews — especially observant ones — to be visible, engaged in society and capable of taking on responsibility for others as opposed to just looking out for their parochial interests.
In most cases, these two truths coexist in harmony: Six days a week, a Shabbat-observant Jew can and should engage fully with the world and use the passion and wisdom of the Jewish tradition to make a mark on the broader society. And on the seventh day, like God before her, she should rest, turning within to rejuvenate, to recharge and to model the promise of a weekly respite from non-stop labor.
But how do we think about Shabbat-observant Jews performing those functions that require seven days of work, or at least occasional work on Saturdays? As Jack Lew, a Shabbat-observant Jew takes over as White House chief of staff, these questions are all the more relevant. What is the role of Shabbat in an increasingly 24/7 world? Can we revel in the appointment of an observant Jew to the highest and busiest of executive jobs without compromising our covenantal obligations in the name of Shabbat?
We live at a moment when interest in Shabbat is being rekindled, as broad swaths of people feel enslaved by the incessant nature of the information age. We are witness to a world crying out for a Sabbath.