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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


This week, I participated in a Yeshiva University sponsored rabbinic educational conference for rabbis in Boca Raton, FL. The presenters were all amazing and I indeed learned a lot. On Shabbat morning, I hope to share with you some of what I gained from the experience.

These are the topics that were discussed:

Session 1: Balancing Concern for Israel with Continuing Life After October 7

Session 2: Attitudes Towards America in Light of Growing Anti-Semitism

Session 3: Thoughts on Living in the Diaspora: October 7 and Antisemitism

Session 4: What is the Purpose of a Shul?

Session 5: Accepting that which we Cannot Understand

Session 6: Rabbis and Congregants: Negotiating New Realities in Israel, America and Around the World

Session 7: Opportunities after October 7 for Rabbis and Congregants Living in the Diaspora

Session 8: Rethinking Aliya After October 7 for Rabbis and Congregants Living in the Diaspora 

Session 9: Engaging Our Communities in a Spiritual Connection to Torah and Mitzvot

Session 10: Chomer L’Drush for Purim

Session 111:  Eretz Yisrael, Pesach, Miscellaneous

Onto this week’s parasha. 

In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by the 21st century, society would be so advanced that people would only need to work fifteen hours a week. An article a few years ago in The Atlantic on the topic of “workism” notes that Keynes wasn’t entirely wrong. 

In certain demographics, people are working less hours than in previous generations. However, there are other demographics, particularly wealthier men, where the trend is moving the other way. 

The author defines “workism” as “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.” 

Judaism has a different perspective. R. Yehuda Leib Alter (1847-1905 – Poland) in his Sefat Emet on this week’s parasha, quotes from his grandfather, R. Yitzchak Meir Alter (known as the Chidushei HaRim), who asks the following question. Parashot Terumah and Tetzaveh discuss the building of the Mishkan, followed by parashat Ki Tisa, which wraps up the discussion of the Mishkan and then focuses on Shabbat (and later the sin of the golden calf). However, parashat Vayakhel does the opposite. It begins with a discussion of Shabbat and only then transitions to the building of the Mishkan. Why the difference? 

He suggests that before the sin of the golden calf, the ideal was that we work for six days as a preparation for Shabbat. After the sin of the golden calf, we first need Shabbat to set the tone for the coming week.

For a Jew, whether we look at Shabbat first or last chronologically - Shabbat is what defines the workplace. Whereas workism puts work as “the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose,” “Shabbatism” puts Shabbat and other spiritual pursuits as the centerpiece of one’s identity and life purpose. From a Jewish perspective, working hard is fine, as long as it serves as a means of preparing for Shabbat and the other important values in our lives.