The Music of Halacha: Shabbat: The Creativity of Restriction

Mar 10th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Music of Halacha
Every time I walk into a store to begin my Pesach shopping, I feel a slight twang of nostalgia for the Pesach of my youth. Everything had to be prepared by hand, at home. There were very few Kosher for Passover products available. Every year there would be one new product, especially treasured and appreciated if it was a new type of Pesach Candy, which was so exciting. Nowadays, we simply walk into a store and buy everything that we need for Pesach, and end up not missing very much at all. It just doesn’t feel the same as the pace of my youth. I guess my perspective was that the Pesach restrictions were an essential part of its special feeling. I think I was wrong.

One of the biggest thrills of my life is to watch as my wife creates new spectacular recipes that are gluten-free. I remember when the doctor in Germany told me that I have Celiac Disease, that my heart sank. My favorite food was bread. No more bread for me. We found gluten-free matzo, but it tastes like cardboard. Then, one of my daughters found gluten-free challah. “Oh joy! Oh heaven!” It was even edible, especially if you heat ed it and added some honey. The menu continues to expand. I can now have pancakes, pretzels, pasta, brownies, blondies, scones, muffins, fantastic cakes, and things just keep on coming.

All of the restrictions of a gluten-free diet inspired my wife to achieve new heights of creativity. I remarked on this, this morning, and Debbie looked at me and said, “of course! Just think about Shabbat! The point of restriction is to encourage creativity and thought. Isn’t that why you write “The Music of Halachah?”

She’s right! I always hated when people emphasize the restrictions, and the rules, rather then the creativity demanded by the restrictions. I always celebrate Debbie’s resourcefulness as she figures out how to use what’s available, no matter how limited, to create the most fabulous things. Every time I face one of the Shabbat restrictions, I have an opportunity to review the complex laws of Shabbat to see if there is any way I can do a specific action with in the Shabbat guidelines. The restrictions encourage creativity.

I was wrong about Pesach. Yes, I do miss the involved work of making all the Pesach food rather than simply walking into a supermarket. However, every time I now look upon the thousands of Pesach products available, I can celebrate how our natural response to restriction is creativity.

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