28 Kislev 5782 / Thursday, December 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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Beloved Shabbat    

Beloved Shabbat

Shabbat observance is not always understood by those who are looking at it from the outside. What’s it all about? Why all the rules? Here are some answers...


Shabbat observance is something that is not always easily understood to those who are looking at it from the outside. What’s it all about? Why all the rules? Isn’t it lazy to take an entire day off from pursuing our own goals? The following article is based on the teachings of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. His famous book “Peninei Halakha: Laws of Shabbat”. Concise and breathtaking, his explanations on Jewish law leave the reader yearning for Hashem. The essay below is an elaboration on his explanation about the foundation of Shabbat.


There is in the Torah the idea that Shabbat observance is done through practicing the aspects of Commemoration and Observation or in Hebrew what’s referred to as “Shamor v’Zachor.” What does this mean to the common man?


The idea of commemoration is the aspect of making the day special and different. This is done by refraining from violating the 39 activities of forbidden labor (such as using fire, building, dyeing colors etc. ) which were all connected to the construction of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was the “mini Temple” which the Jewish people had throughout their encampments throughout the wilderness. Its first assemblage was at Mount Sinai and we transported it all throughout the 40 years that we were in the wilderness awaiting to enter the holy land. It’s final resting place was in Jerusalem and is what’s commonly referred to as the Holy Temple or Beit HaMikdash.


Our sages derived that the forbidden labors of Shabbat were connected to construction of the Tabernacle when they saw the passages regarding the descriptions of the work done in the tabernacle next to the verse in (Shemot 31:13) “Nevertheless, you must keep My Shabbatot.” The inner meaning Rav Melamed teaches is that although having the tabernacle up and running is a fabulous addition to the spiritual atmosphere, it is never the lest forbidden to erect it on Shabbat. Thus till today, practicing Jews refrain from the same forbidden labors that were used to build and assemble the traveling tabernacle that once was.


Think about it, it’s hard to study for a test when the radio is on, and the television is on, and the blender is being used in the kitchen; how much more so when we make an effort to connect to the Almighty with spirituality. Therefore answering the phone to a solicitor is not only forbidden (because of the use of electricity and its connection to fire), but is a great way to ruin your romantic candle lit dinner.


By refraining from all of the forbidden labors such as turning things on and off and refraining from using cars and phones, we create the necessary atmosphere for spirituality and holiness to enter our homes. We sit down, sing songs, welcome the angels, drink wine, and eat a lavish meal with those we love the most. Remember now that we have spent the last few days chasing after money and solving problems and going to meetings etc. Without the Shabbat, our lives are entrenched in non-stop work and toil. Shabbat therefore provides us with the opportunity to see that our actions, if directed properly have incredible impact on the world. But had we not ever been given the Shabbat, we would just continuously toil and never contemplate our true role and mission in life aka The Big Picture, nor would we really truly be able to value or contributions to the world.


But let’s go deeper…


The Hebrew word for Shabbat, the day when we return to family and spiritual growth, comes from the same root word as teshuva, the word for returning to God. This is a form of deriving the inner meaning of many Hebrew words, by looking at the identical letters in the pairing word. So we learn from this that with the extra time now on our hands, we organize and dedicate our time to doing various activities which complement our goal in getting closer to feeling God. Take also the word for cessation of work or strike- shvita – also comes from the same root word. These hidden meanings of returning to God and creating space by not doing the forbidden labors are all derived using this method of deciphering the inner meaning of the word Shabbat.


Shabbat is a day that we sanctify, put on hold and remember that Shabbat is special. That it signifies man’s belief that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. It also means that we believe that God works wonders specifically through the Jewish people as we relate in Kiddush when mentioning how our people left Egypt through God’s miracles.


So through our enjoyment of Shabbat, we connect intimately with God, who created the world and manages the destiny of our people. Shabbat is the true time during the week where a Jew can gather his strength to realign the way he looks at the world through self-assessment. Shabbat is the time where we review fundamental principles of faith which give us strength to rise to our challenges.


But to truly make Shabbat special, we greatly benefit by intertwining our work days with the Shabbat. Meaning our mind frame throughout the week should be focused on preparations for the coming Shabbat. Buying food, doing laundry, getting our haircuts and taking care of loose ends at work all become elevated acts of worship when placed in the perspective to give honor to God.


It’s a time where a couple can sit down and reevaluate their path in life, to get closer to one another to give each other compliments of sincere gratitude. (Homework: Married men, when you stare at the next Shabbat meal, stop in the middle closer your eyes and remember all of the Shabbats you spent alone dreaming to be married. Take this time to lavish praise on your wife. The effort will be bring huge dividends!)


For parents, it’s the time where you can truly make every effort to connect with your teen. To go for a walk, to share stories about your life (hint: don’t criticize your teen, find their good points and motivate them to follow the proper path, share with them your favorite stories of them as a child. Be the cool parent you always dreamed of being! (See Rabbi Brody’s class : Two Sons)


Take a walk by yourself and talk to Hashem, even if it’s just in thought, give thanks for the merit of living a life which derives inner peace through the Shabbat rest day. Contemplate the beauty of Judaism and how it affects your life for the good. Try to pray for the blessing to follow the Torah with a smile and a full heart, not stress.


Rabbi Nachman says that the first thing a person needs in returning to God is to know Jewish Law. By learning the Halachot of Shabbat, you will be on your way to truly knowing how to live according to Torah with a smile.

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