I went to Limmud NY 2011 and wrote a lot of posts about it. Here’s a guide to them.
I’m at Limmud NY 2011! Here are some notes from a session called Creating an Egalitarian Day for God, taught by William Friedman. There is another note about a liturgical oddity that came up in the session at my blog, The Reform Shuckle, but here’s the guy’s main point:
By prohibiting not only field work (Exodus 34:21), but also housework (Exodus 35:3), the Torah creates a gender-egalitarian model of rest. In other words, what the Torah sees as male work and what the Torah sees as female work are both forbidden on Shabbat.
Further, by prohibiting employers or slave-owners from having their employees or slaves work on Shabbat (Deuteronomy 5:13-14), the Torah creates a labor law. “Shabbat creates social egalitarianism for the day,” Friedman said.
One participant added, anticipating Friedman’s next point: “Rest is the context in which human equality can occur.”
Friedman again: “Shabbat is an opportunity to break out of the social status and group” they’re usually in. It counteracts the social disenfranchisement we experienced in Egypt. “Hewing too close to the text leads to things like the Shabbos Goy. It’s prohibited! It makes me vomit to see Hispanic workers on Shabbat serving at a Bar Mitzvah.”
So that’s cool. There was a little more the session, but I had to run to a shift at the check-in desk.