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Rabbi to speak at Saint John’s about the meaning of the Sabbath

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September 27, 2012

Rabbi David Wirtschafter

Rabbi David Wirtschafter, rabbi of the Ames Jewish Congregation in Iowa, will present the lecture "The Radical Notion of Rest: Reflections on the Meaning of the Sabbath" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Quad 264 at Saint John's University.

The lecture is sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning and is free and open to the public.

"In biblical times, the idea of the Sabbath as a day of rest for all people was a revolutionary idea that challenged social orders based on the assumption that some people owned other people's time," said John Merkle, director of the Jay Phillips Center. "And the Sabbath has sustained the Jewish people and their religion throughout the centuries." 

According to Wirtschafter, "the Sabbath has been one of the Jewish people's most important social and intellectual contributions to civilizations throughout the world." In his lecture at Saint John's, he will explore the meaning of the Sabbath and "how the digital age raises new challenges for the distinction between the work place and home, between labor and rest."

In addition to his rabbinic responsibilities in Iowa, Wirtschafter occasionally leads services for the St. Cloud Area Jewish Community. He was raised in Minneapolis and graduated from Brandeis University in Massachusetts with a degree in English literature, and from Hebrew Union College in New York with a master's degree in Hebrew literature.

Wirtschafter is rabbi-in-residence during the current academic year for the Jay Phillips Center, which is a joint enterprise of Saint John's University and the University of St. Thomas. As rabbi-in-residence, Wirtschafter serves as guest professor in classes at the two host universities and at the College of Saint Benedict. He also hosts Sabbath meals for students and leads trips for them to synagogues in the Twin Cities.