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    No fire on Shabbat – Vayakhel

    Exodus 35:3, prohibits lighting fire on Shabbat.

    There are many explanations of this law. One is that fire in all its various forms makes weekday activities possible, and by not kindling fire we separate Shabbat from the rest of the week.

    It is interesting how easy it is these days to produce a spark, which shows that the criterion of Shabbat “work” is not a matter of how physically hard the work is but what it signifies.

    Turning on an electric switch is easy, but its effect and symbolism have a mighty message.

    What happens if the weather is extreme – excruciatingly hot or freezing cold? We can organise ourselves before Shabbat to provide for the weather. This is the thinking behind the use of Shabbat clocks. The clock does not have to rest on Shabbat: we do, but the clock helps us.

    This is also where the notion of the “Shabbos goy” comes in (and Jewish literature has a number of stories of what happened at different times if the Shabbos goy turned out to be Jewish).

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