Work and Work – Part 1- Parshat Vayakhel

There is a concept in social psychology called cognitive dissonance and its sister-concept cognitive consonance.  Leon Festinger, teaching that we strive for psychological consistency, describes a situation in which two people who are friendly do or do not agree about a third party. If they are in agreement, there is cognitive consonance while if they are in disagreement, there will be cognitive dissonance. How much this factors into their relationship and how they will or will not resolve it depends on the degrees of intensity of their feelings towards each other and towards the third party.

Having studied Torah –usually happily – since childhood, my relationship to it is positive and I strongly identify with its teachings. Similarly, though on a different level, I have enjoyed since adolescence the teachings of Dr. Viktor Frankl, the author of Man's Search for Meaning and the founder of logotherapy, though I have only taken up studying his works in earnest about ten years ago.

Hence, my interest in putting the two together, Torah and logotherapy in this blog called logoParsha which includes the joy I have when I see that Frankl's works are found in the teachings of the Torah and Chazal. Using Frankl's teachings to help understand the Torah better has been very helpful and has enlightened me. I am thankful to have experienced a high level of cognitive consonance.

In Parshat Vayakhel, the Torah starts by teaching some of the laws of Shabbat. Even though the laws of Shabbat have been previously discussed at least four times, it is mentioned once again here so that it will be in proximity to the laws of the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.1 This proximity will teach us that it is the creative activities engaged in while building the Mishkan that are specifically forbidden on Shabbat due to their creative nature.2 So, there are six days of creative activity and one day, Shabbat, in which we refrain from creative activity and experience the world as is.

Dr. Viktor Frankl describes three paths to take to find meaning. They are the Creative path, the Experiential path and the Attitudinal path. The first two, the creative and experiential paths, are proactive paths to meaning. In the creative path to meaning, we engage in an activity that will create something – this can be a work of art, a muscular build, a meal or almost any creative activity you can think of. Very often I think of my sessions with clients as creative activity as no two clients should be treated the same and i need to create something new for every client.

When choosing to engage in experiential activity we discuss being more in the passive state – listening to music, spending time with family, reading, watching the sunset, etc. Frankl writes:

In life, too, the peaks decide the meaningfulness of the life, and a single moment can retroactively flood an entire life with meaning.3

The third path, the Attitudinal path, is reactive as we choose how we react to challenges and hardships in our lives.3

Two of these paths  are described in the laws of Shabbat. Those two paths are the Creative path, corresponding to the 6-day work week and the experiential path, corresponding to Shabbat. Six days, we are told, work is to be done. The six days of the week, then, are akin to working towards meaning in the Creative path while Shabbat, by refraining from creative work, is representative of the Experiential path. We cannot have one without the other.

For many years, I used to think that engaging in experiential activity was running away from reality, a waste of time. It felt hypocritical to relax. Taking time off was viewed upon as wasteful and immature at best. Evil at worst.

In fact, they are supplementary. The makeup of the week reflects that as we have six days of creative activity and one day of experiential activity. We are meant to do and create AND we are meant to relax and experience. They only appear contradictory when in fact they augment each other.  

Living in cognitive consonance…ahhhh.

In memory of my mother, Hentcha Leah bat Yitzchak Lipa, hk"m


  1. Shemot 35:1-3
  2. Bava Kama 26b and in many other places
  3. Doctor and the Soul, pp. 43-46

Have A Great Shabbat!laughing

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