The joyous connection that Shabbos brings- week after week.
This week’s Torah reading details the creation of the universe. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The conclusion of creation is described in the Torah as follows: “And the heaven and earth were completed along with all their ranks. And God concluded on the seventh day the work which He did, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work which He did. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on that day God rested from all the work which He did.” This passage is recited every week on Friday night at Kiddush, the special blessing to sanctify the Sabbath.
The Talmud (Shabbos 119b) says that when one recites this passage in Kiddush, two angels place their hands on him and say to him, “Your iniquity shall be removed and your mistakes will be forgiven.” This statement calls for an explanation. What is so remarkable about this ritual that one who performs it deserves to have angels pronounce atonement for him? Rabbi Avigdor Miller explains that this is not merely a matter of reciting a few verses. The essence of this recitation is in fact the greatest form of Teshuvah (repentance)! These words of Kiddush are a proclamation of the absolute control of God over our lives. The words of Kiddush are an announcement of how God has created the entire universe from absolutely nothing, and therefore, everything in the world exists only because it is His constant will that it be so. Acknowledging that we, ourselves, and everything in the world belong to God and constantly exist only because of His will is the greatest form of submissiveness to God.
There was a group of girls who worked at a construction site in a labor camp during the Holocaust. Some days they had easier work, consisting of cutting cobblestones or setting them in the ground, while some days they had to work harder, pushing a heavy wagon filled with stones back and forth. They made sure to always have the job of pushing the wagon on Sabbath instead of the easier jobs. Being that the work was done in an enclosed area, this job did not involve severe transgressions of Sabbath as the easier jobs did. Even in this dire situation, and even though it meant harder work, they were happy to avoid desecrating the Sabbath as much as they could, and they sang songs in honor of the Sabbath as they labored on this day.
Someone once told me that she finds observing Sabbath to be challenging for herself, because Sabbath is about being with family, and she lives alone, far from family. It is true that we put emphasis on celebrating Sabbath with family, and the absence of family with which to commemorate this special day can be very challenging. Nonetheless, it is important to bear in mind that this by no means defines what Sabbath is actually about. The essence of Sabbath is about the relationship of man with his Creator. It is a day to contemplate the greatness of God, His absolute control of our lives, our faith in Him and His kindness to us. This is how these girls, under the most devastating circumstances, found the enthusiasm to keep the spirit of Sabbath vibrant. They understand well that Sabbath is not merely about socializing and having a good time, which was an impossible experience to have during that period. As challenging as it was, they recognized the depth of the sanctity of this day and were insistent on observing it to the best of their abilities.
There are many laws pertaining to keeping Sabbath, and this concept is the theme behind them all. The various prohibitions pertaining to the Sabbath are not just dry laws, limitingour activities. They are all part of preserving the spirit of Sabbath; the feeling that God is the source of everything in this world and in our lives. The more we incorporate this awareness into our minds during Sabbath, and even more so, in adhering to its laws and keeping the sanctity of Sabbath, the more of an elevating experience we will have, by absorbing the true meaning of this special day. Focusing on this idea is so powerful that it can cause all our sins to be forgiven.
email@example.com by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber