A king once told his friend, the prime minister, “I see in the stars that whoever eats any wheat that grows this year will become mad. What do you suggest I do?”
The prime minister replied, “We should put aside enough wheat so that we ourselves will not have to eat from this harvest.”
The king answered, “But if we alone are the sane ones, and the rest of the world is mad, then we will be the ones who everyone will consider to be the mad ones. It is not possible to place aside enough wheat for everyone, so we too must eat this year’s grain. But let us make a mark on our foreheads so that we should at least know that we are mad. I will look at your forehead, and you will look at mine, and seeing this sign, we will know that we are both mad.”(Rebbe Nachman’s Stories)
Our Torah was given especialy to us, and the rest of the world wasn’t interested in observing it on Mount Sinai. Today we live amongst other nations in our exile from Israel and as we all know, the world has gone mad. Children are killing their friends, immorality is everywhere and homes are broken from a high divorce rate. We have a sign that we should never forget and that is that we are Jews and even amongst all this madness we still remain holy Jews by the observance of Shabbos.
Hashem wanted to make the Jewish people worthy of the World to Come, therefore, He gave them the Torah and Commandments.(Makkoth 3:16) He also wanted to give His people a taste of the spiritual delight of the World to come. So what did he do, he gave us the Shabbos. The delight one feels on the Shabbos is a counterpart of the World to Come, and every man can experience spiritual pleasure on the Shabbos.
Chazel have taught us, “Reward for the commandments doesn’t exist in this world.” A question then comes up, how can a person enjoy the Shabbos? Hashem gave it to us as a free gift. The reward for the commandments may not exist in this world, but Hashem can give it as a gift, even in this world. Therefore Hashem gives us a taste of the splendor of the World to Come, when we do His will and keep the Shabbos.
It is written, “You shall keep the Shabbos [for it is a sign… that I am G-D who makes you holy]”(Exodus 3:13). If you keep the Shabbos, you will experience the spiritual joy of the World to Come. Shabbos is therefore a “sign” leading to the future reward. Therefore it says, “It is a sign…. that I am G-D, who makes you holy.” Through observing the Shabbos, you will come to know the G-D who will make you holy in the World of Eternity- in the world where all is Shabbos. (Kedushath Levi, Ki Thisa p. 162)
When Hashem created the world, it was like a body without a soul. Just like Hashem breathed the soul into the body of man, so too, He brought the peace of Shabbos into the world. It is thus written, “On the seventh day He rested and was refreshed (vayinafash)”(Exidis 31:17). [The word vayinafash is related to the word nefesh , “soul”] for the Shabbos is the soul of all creation. (Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Hakdama)
All the days of the week draw their sustenance from what we do on Shabbos. This especially holds true of the three seudos, festive meals, we take part in. Do you want to know something deep and holy? I will share something special with you.
We learn from Sha’are Orah that the Shabbos is the source of all blessing and all holiness that is drawn down to us. One who keeps the Shabbos in accordance with its laws, becomes a throne for the heavenly constellation of Hashem, Blessed be He, and therefore Shabbos is known as meNuChaH (a resting place). As it says in the psalms 132:14, “This is my resting place forever and ever. Anyone who keeps Shabbos in accordance to its laws, fulfills the Torah in its entirety. This can be seen from Isaiah who said, “Happy is the one who does this; he who keeps the Shabbos and doesn’t profane it”.(Isaiah 56:2)
Shabbos is one of the names of G-d. The Shabbos is the light of the eyes which illumine the Holy Temple and the entire world. This is why those who keep the Shabbos will have their eyes opened and they will have the power to see into themselves and judge how far they have reached in their spiritual journey. They will also be able to repent for their failings and come to recognize the true greatness of Hashem. The power of vision over the entire universe, they will also have. They will be drawn to the innermost aspect of truth, the true tzaddik and those who have genuine fear of Heaven. Their minds will open up. It will be as if they are engaged in rebuilding the Holy Temple. (Likutey Eitzos 21)
The seventh day, being Shabbos, is a day of rest from all work and worldly matters. It is a time to reflect back on ones week and their lives. A time for families to sit down together and share their spirituality. The Shabbos day is truly a present from Hashem. Observance of the Shabbos is the best thing that can happen to ones family and themselves. Ones body and soul are completely attached and thereby dependent on one another. All week long our bodies are stressed from work and material matters, and we don’t have anytime to think and to reflect on what’s truly important, our family, friends, spirituality and Judaism. Comes the Shabbos and it’s rest, all becomes clear. No matter how observant a person is, there is still more to learn and appreciate about the holy Shabbos.
If Israel kept two Shabbosim according to the law they would be redeemed immediately (Shabbos 117b). Why is it that people are able to keep the Shabbos according to the utmost stictness and continue to want to do so? To one who has never really experienced a Shabbos, this is a valid question. The other week I was walking an elderly Jewish man home from the Rav’s house, Friday night. He was telling me how he doesn’t really believe that Hashem is controlling the world and that he has a soul inside. He was telling me that everything around him was all a coincidence. In response, I was pointing to the trees, the grass and all the wonders around me asking how this could all just be here by coincidence. Finally, I asked him the right question. “Tell me,” I said, “do you feel the holy Shabbos, as you must? Don’t you feel a special sensation inside that is just special only today? Don’t you just feel good inside?” I continued to say.
“Yes I do feel different”, he said and he went on to describe the relaxed nice feeling he has inside.
I said, “I KNEW that you felt it! That my friend is why we are able to keep Shabbos so scrupulously! We feel it and its quite a holy feeling. We all know it deep down inside, no-matter how we have grown up.
I went on to tell him, “You do have a soul, because that is why you feel the Shabbos. One’s soul is extra pure (not to mention an additional one) to feel the holiness of Shabbos, on Shabbos”. My fellow Jews, everyone has the ability to keep the Shabbos!
One should start at their own level. To dive in too quickly might be counterproductive. Just take one step at a time. Have a festive family meal together Friday night after shul. Enjoy the feast with the best tasting kosher food you can find, and speak about the current Torah reading in shul. Spend the precious time together with your family and friends that you don’t get to during the week.
Wherever you are holding, you can do something more in honor of Shabbos. One day of the week you can do things a little bit different. Try to stay more around the house and shul. Relax and read books on the Torah. Hashem wants you to do the best you can.
When a person brings the light of Shabbos into there life, it opens up many new doors. It feels good to keep commandments, as it brings focus into ones life, as to what is really important. The more of Shabbos you’re able to keep the more holiness, closeness to Hashem you will be able to feel. Shabbos after all has an essence of the World to Come. Giving your children an upbringing which includes the observance of Shabbos is the greatest gift you can give them. Rebbe Nachman said once, “When a person experiences the holiness of the Shabbos, they can attain true purity. This means to understand ones own lowliness and to be so aware of the greatness of Israel, to such an extent that he is prepared to sacrifice his very life for them, as Moses did” (Likutey Eitzos Shabbos, #12). Let us teach this mitzvah to our families and to all the world.
The six days of the week are a preparation for the holiness of Shabbos. This can be compared to a man who was sitting in the dark for many days and suddenly went out into the light. He will not be able to stand the light for it will harm. It is the same way with someone whose actions are dark during the weekdays, and will not be able to receive the light of the holiness of Shabbos. (Eser Tzachtzachos, P. 55, #44) We see from this how important it is to make a vessel of oneself for the Shabbos, by increasing ones awareness of Hashem and their performance of mitzvos during the week.
The following is a famous story from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Once there was a couple who had a difficult time having children. Always in the later months of her pregnancy she would miscarry and loose the baby. The enormous pain a women goes through after loosing a precious child is unimaginable. So careful was she this time that she never left the house for nine months. Suddenly she felt ill and went to the hospital, and the doctor told her that she is loosing the baby once again and that he was sorry, but she is just not fit to have children. Her pain was so much that she was ready to commit suicide as she walked down her street. Suddenly she noticed the synagogue across the street from her home, which she never really paid attention too. Having grown up in a home in which G-D was never mentioned, the last thing she could ever see herself doing would be to pray to Him for help. After all, to her G-D didn’t exist. She ran in to the shul and fell down before the ark in tears. Praying with all her might she realized all the wrong she had done and that their was one G-D after all. The only thing she really knew about her heritage was that Jewish women light two candles Friday night. Calling out to Hashem she promised that she would light two candles for Shabbos if only Hashem would give her a healthy baby. As she left the shul, she ran to a neighbor whom she knew was a religious Jew. She asked her how to properly light the two candles for Shabbos, and she explained her story. That she wanted to light two candles for Shabbos to show Hashem she was proud to be a Jewish women.
The religious women said to her, you can’t just light two candles and that will be your observance of Shabbos. Your home has to be one of Shabbos and your husband can’t be at his job working. She immediately called her husband as it was Friday afternoon and told him ecstatically, if you don’t come home early from work for Shabbos I will divorce you. Her husband thinking his wife had gone mad agreed to come home. Mazel Tov, they had their first child!
Having told this story over in one of his concerts, a couple came over to Rabbi Carlebach and asked to tell him their story. To do so, they drove him home to their house in town. As the Rebbe went in, they showed him their fully set table already prepared for Shabbos even though it was early in the week. They told him, the story you just told over, that was my story too.
In our daily prayers every morning when we say over the psalm for the day we always mention the Shabbos. Today is this day of the week of the Shabbos. This shows how everyday of the week is in preparation for the coming Shabbos and draws holiness from it. Rabbi Asher of Stolin taught that we should always be looking forward to the coming of Shabbos the entire week, thinking to ourselves, “When will Shabbos come?”(Beit Aharon, Kikkutim, p. 286) Every day of the week, remember the holy Shabbos by preparing, if possible, something for its honor.(Derech Chayim 7-42)
Once Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz sat at a table on Wednesday at some mitzvah meal and was he began to speak about the holiness of Shabbos. He became so ecstatic about it and so full of fervor that he called out to those around him, “Shabbos Shalom to you!” It seemed to Rabbi Yuda Tzvi who was sitting with him that Shabbos was soon approaching and he went home to get his white shirt and went right to the mikvah in honor of the Shabbos. On the way there he met another man who was also at the table with the Tzanzer and they both proceeded together with their white shirts under their arms to the mikvah for Shabbos. When they got there they saw that they were the only ones at the mikvah and then realized their mistake that it was only Wednesday. The fervor of the Tzanzer had affected them to such an extent that they thought that Shabbos was already upon them. (Pe’er Yitzchak, P. 125, #10)
Chazal said, “If you prepare on Friday, you will have food on Shabbos.” One should be very eager to make preparations for Shabbos. You should move quickly like a man told that the queen and her entourage are coming to lodge in his house. He says with excitement “What an honor they are bestowing onto me by coming to stay in my house.” He tells his servants to get the house ready. “Sweep, tidy up, prepare the beds with finest linens.” He then personally stands in the kitchen to prepare the finest delicacies and buys the riches wines. Now, what greater guest is there than Shabbos, which is called “a queen” and “a delight”. How much more that the master of the house himself should take the trouble to prepare like Rava, a leading Talmudic authority, who himself salted a fish in honor of Shabbos. (Sefer Chassidim page 31)
If one is able, its a nice thing to write down something for every day of the week that you will do in honor of the coming Shabbos. See if there is an organization you can give charity to or personally help out which provides the poor or sick with food for Shabbos. Too make another person’s Shabbos is a very holy thing. Deliver some flowers Lekavod, in honor of Shabbos to your friends and neighbors occasionally. Think up ideas for yourself in this regard. Make your weekday holy by thinking of the coming Shabbos and preparing for it not just for you but for others as well. Teach your fellow Jews of its holiness and share this mitzvah with them. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach once said, If you want to taste the Shabbos, then give it to someone else. It is such a wonderful thing to see Jews willing to share the Shabbos with their fellow Jews. The Shabbos guests one invites to stay over or eat the festive meal truly adds to the flavor and mitzvah of the Shabbos.
One should do their best to draw the holiness of Shabbos into the six working days of the week and sanctify them also. The more the weekdays are invested with holiness, the more the forces of evil will be subdued. (Likutey Eitzos Shabbos, #4). A person should first perfect their observance of Shabbos from sundown to sunset Friday night till the eve of Saturday. Having already done so, it is a very holly great thing to draw this holiness into your weekday by adding some additional time to your Shabbos both before and after. Having personally added time to Shabbos, I have noticed my following weekday infused with much more blessing and material matters seem to go much more smoothly. I therefore recommend this practice to those who are able to fulfill it. It is important not to forget quality verses quantity. If extending the Shabbos longer will lead you to use the time wastefully then it might be better to just end it at the normal hour. Even a couple minutes longer at the conclusion of Shabbos before Havdalah draws a little bit more holiness into the weekdays but how much more so a half hour or an hour.
What is this “rest”. It is the absence of work. It is a recess which is called Shabbos ( meaning rest). What is this like? A King possessed seven gardens, and the middle one contained a fountain, coming up from a living source. Three [of his gardens] are at its right, and three are at its left. When it performed its duty and overflowed, they all celebrated, saying, “It overflowed for our sake”. It waters them and makes them grow, while they wait and rest. Are we then say that it waters the seven? But it written in Isaiah(43,5), From the east I will bring your seed”. This shows that one of [the seven] waters it. We must therefore say, that it waters the Heart, and the Heart then waters them all. (Bahir 159)
A young man heard wonderful things about the land of Israel and how you can feel so much holiness by going to Israel. He spent a few months there and wondered why he felt nothing holy. He traveled to the well known Kotel and to many of the graves of holy Tzaddikim. Finally he approached a Rabbi and told him, “People told me I would feel holiness here but I feel nothing at all and I’m going to just return home disappointed”. The Rabbi responded, “Do you know what a bafutstick is? Can you feel a Bafutstick? The young man puzzled answered that he didn’t know what a Bafutstick was. The Rabbi responded, “and do you know what holy is? Come into my Yeshiva and learn what holy is!(Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss Shir) The same can be true of the Shabbos. If you want to know what it is and feel it, you have to learn about it.
When the Torah starts, it begins with the word Bereshis, “in the beginning.” It begins the story of creation. If you rearrange its letters, you have the word, yere Shabbat, revere the Shabbos. The Baal Shem Tov taught, Observing the Shabbos according to its laws, with all their fine points and laws brings the forgiveness of sin.
As a little boy, Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin was once studying a tractate of mishnah with his private melamed, teacher. “This tractate deals with a situation where a person for some reason has lost their sense of time and forgotten when Shabbos is,” his melamed explained. “But how can one possibly forget when Shabbos is”, interrupted the boy. Patiently, the melamed presented an example of a man who somehow got lost in a desert and lost all track of time thereby. “Still, it’s impossible to forget!”, the boy insisted. The melamed continued to explain how unpredicted situations could happen. Little Rehbe Yisrael still wouldn’t except any of his explanations. “Its simply impossible to forget”, he claimed once again. Finally, the exasperated melamed asked him, “Why do you insist that this cannot happen”. The boy responded, “It’s quite obvious he said. On Shabbos, the sky looks different than it does all week. When one is in doubt, all he needs to do is to gaze up at the sky and he will surely see if it is Shabbos or not!”
I’m sure not all of us could see the difference in the clouds during the weekdays and on Shabbos but this little boy could. Maybe you are able to sense it in another way because there truly is an obvious difference in the world physically and spiritually.
It says in Sharey Orah, you must be precise to fulfill the commandment to eat three meals in honor of the Shabbos because it entails unifying very holy things. It unifies this world and the world to come. The name of Hashem, YKVK is united with its essence which is the third sphere with the seventh. The three meals on Shabbos each correspond to unifying the sefiros (There are ten spiritual Sefiros in which Hashem created which work to keep the world in balance. Every mitzvah we do helps these sefiros to give off blessing to the world and become balanced again. The world will not be balanced again until the time when Moshiach will come. It is our job to fix these sefiros and we do this through following the Torah). The first siuda, meal we eat on Shabbos corresponds to Hashem’s name Adna, which becomes one on the Shabbos which is the essense of the seventh sefirah’s (Malkhus) unity. The second siuda we eat unifies the name YKVK and the third corresponds to Binah which is connected to the essence of Hashem’s name EKYE. This is the essence of the unity of three, the essence of the verse “and you will call the Shabbos Oneg, delight”. Therefore when a person observes the Shabbos desisting from doing labor and honors it by delighting in the three siudos, they become a true messenger of Hashem. How fortunate you will be in keeping Shabbos, for you will be a host to the ten sefiros (explained in more detail in Sha’are Orah).
Praying on the Shabbos is extra special. The “other side” so to speak is set aside, and there is a manifestation of radiant Godliness. The prayers of the Shabbos are especially beloved on high. (Zohar II:135, III:243a) The gate of the inner court… shall be closed during the six working days, but on the Shabbos it shall be opened.”(Ezekiel 46:1) On the weekdays prayer needs much more effort then on the Shabbos though we are required to pray every day of the week. If we don’t pray during the six days of the week our prayer will simply not work on the Shabbos. Also on the Shabbos, our prayers should not be about mundane matters but should be more focused on our spiritual being and closeness to Hashem. This is why in the prayer books, the Shabbos prayers are completely different from the weekday ones. On Shabbos one must force themselves not to think about weekday activities and concerns. The Shabbos is a day of rest from all worries and concerns. It is a time to rejuvenate ourselves spiritually and physically. It is a true delight if we let it be. We must let go and give ourselves a break and let our minds refocus on the true purpose of life.