Sunday, March 26, 2006

Observing the Shabbos - Its Centrality in Judaism

Shabbos (Sabbath) is mentioned in a number of places throughout the Torah, including in the last couple parshios (Ki Sisa and Vayakhel/Pekudei).

In Ki Sisa we read as follows:

(פסוק יב) ויאמר י-ה-ו-ה, אל משה לאמר.
(פסוק יג) ואתה דבר אל בני ישראל לאמר, אך את שבתתי תשמרו: כי אות הוא ביני וביניכם, לדרתיכם:לדעת, כי אני י-ה-ו-ה מקדשכם.
(פסוק יד) ושמרתם את השבת, כי קדש הוא לכם; מחלליה, מות יומת:כי כל העשה בה מלאכה, ונכרתה הנפש ההוא מקרב עמיה.
(פסוק טו) ששת ימים, יעשה מלאכה, וביום השביעי שבת שבתון קדש, לי-ה-ו-ה; כל העשה מלאכה ביום השבת, מות יומת.
(פסוק טז) ושמרו בני ישראל, את השבת, לעשות את השבת לדרתם, ברית עולם.
(פסוק יז) ביני ובין בני ישראל, אות הוא לעלם: כי ששת ימים, עשה י-ה-ו-ה את השמים ואת הארץ, וביום השביעי, שבת וינפש. [ס]

"And HaShem said to Moshe, saying: And you speak to the Children of Israel saying, but my Sabbaths you shall guard; For it is a sign between Me and between you, for your generations, to know that I am HaShem who has made you holy: And you shall guard the Sabbath, because it is holy to you; Those who desecrate it shall surely die; For all who do melachah in it, his soul will be cut off from the midst of its nation: For six days you shall do melachah, and on the seventh day it is a holy Shabbos Shabbason for HaShem, all who do melachah on the Sabbath day shall surely die: And the Children of Israel guarded the Shabbath, to perform the Shabbath for their generations, an eternal covenant: Between Me and between the Children of Israel, it is an eternal covenant; That six days HaShem Made the Heavens and the Earth is Shabbos (Shavas - type of rest) and He Rested (VaYinafash is spiritual rest)." (Shmos; 31: 12 - 17)

Melachah refers to one of the 39 types of actions forbidden on Shabbos - the 39 types of work done in the Mishkan.

Shabbos Shabbason comes to teach that even such things as preparing food by cooking, which is permitted in general on Jewish holidays, is forbidden on the Sabbath.

In last Shabbos' reading of Vayakhel/Pikudei (at the beginning) we read the following:

(פסוק א) ויקהל משה את כל עדת בני ישראל, ויאמר אלהם: אלה הדברים, אשר צוה י-ה-ו-ה לעשת אתם.
(פסוק ב) ששת ימים, תעשה מלאכה, וביום השביעי י-הי-ה לכם קדש שבת שבתון, לי-ה-ו-ה; כל העשה בו מלאכה, יומת.
(פסוק ג) לא תבערו אש, בכל משבתיכם, ביום, השבת. [פ]

"And Moshe gathered all of the congregation of the Children of Israel, and he said to them; 'These are the things, which HaShem Commanded to do them: Six days you shall do melachah, and on the seventh day it will be holy for you, a Shabbos Shabbason to HaShem; All who do melachah on it will die: Do not burn a fire, in all of your dwellings, on the Sabbath day:" (Shmos; 35: 1 - 3)

If someone were to say the above, they may be considered "extreme" by some of our "Politically Correct" "friends". That would probably also be the case even if they knew that it is quoted from the Torah. Even those who believe that the Torah was Written by HaShem may think it to be "extreme". Therefore, one must learn why the penalty for violation of the Shabbos is seemingly "severe".

Why is the punishment seemingly so "severe" for doing something as seemingly "minor" as lighting a fire on Shabbos?

Without going into any of the commentaries, just by looking at the passages above, we see that observance of the Shabbos is testimony that we recognize HaShem as having separated the Jewish People from the other nations; Thereby, we represent Him. The word kadosh, often translated as "holy" also means "separated". The Jewish People are holy because we were separated from the other nations.

The purpose in the Creation of the Universe, as we learn from our Holy Torah, is for the world to come to accept HaShem as the One True G-D. The Jewish People are HaShem's Messengers. The relationship between the Jewish People and the Shabbos is so powerful, that HaShem paired the Jewish People and the Shabbos together, in a way greatly resembling a marriage between a man and a woman. In order for the Jew to carry out his/her mission in life - to endeavor to spread the Teaching of HaShem to the world, it is absolutely essential that the Jew do their utmost to observe the Sabbath. It is also a recognition that it was HaShem who took us out of Mitzraim in order to be our G-D, subsequently gave us His Torah.

We learn in the Torah that if the Jewish People had not accepted the Torah at Har Sinai, the world would have been returned to a state of Tohu Va'Vohu (utter chaos) - it would have been destroyed immediately - chas v'shalom never realizing its' purpose in existence. It is the Jewish People who must actively recognize HaShem by changing from their "regular routine" during the week. By doing so, we, as HaShem's messengers, portray to the world that it is not "nature" that created and runs the world, rather everything exists because of HaShem. It is a great sanctification of HaShem's Name to follow the Torah - against all odds (of course, in general, saving one's life allows (even obligates) one to break the Shabbos.

When the Jew keeps the Shabbos, it is a powerful sanctification of HaShem's Holy Name. On the flip side, when one violates the Shabbos (assuming they are aware what Shabbos is), he/she acts as if the world is run by nature, thereby cutting themselves off from HaShem, and by extension, His Messengers, the rest of the Jewish People.

The Shabbos is so powerful, that its observance is equivalent to keeping the entire Torah! Therefore, one who keeps the Shabbos is considered as if they kept the entire Torah and one who desecrates the Shabbos is considered to have desecrated the entire Torah. The proper observance of the Shabbos could save an individual, and even the entire Jewish People from harm. As with all other mitzvos not dependent on the "Land", Shabbos as well applies all over the world. (Kiddushin 37a) Yimiyahu, prior to the destruction of the First Beis HaMikdash, warned the Jewish People and the leaders that observance of the Shabbos would be able to save the Jewish People from the destruction and suffering experienced from the Babylonian destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the resultant great loss of Jewish life (we should only know of happiness). Even when things looked bleak for the Jewish People, Shabbos was (and is) our answer!

To conclude, there was a well-know fire in New York City in 1911. It was the a fire that cost the lives of many Jewish girls. What was so interesting about the fire? Well, it occurred on the Shabbos. It happened on Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel. That is the parsha that begins with the warning about observing the Shabbos. HaShem is telling us through this portion of the Torah (among several others), that it is the Torah that protects the Jew. Another interesting relationship - the fire itself. The Torah, after warning about how breaking the Shabbos (assuming the individual knows they should be observing the Shabbos) is a danger to one's life, we read not to light a fire on the Shabbos. HaShem Wants that which is for our good. He Wants us to do that which is the best for ourselves, and the world, both spiritually and physically. We should be a light to the world and stand up to those that think it is more important to follow the dictates of man than the Torah of HaShem. That's what Rose Goldstein did and she lived to tell the story. Who was Rose Goldstein? Well, she was one of the few survivors of the fire of 1911. What did she do to protect herself? Well, she followed HaShem's Will over pressures of flesh-and-blood. She lived until the age of 82. Read her story by clicking on this link - it could be worth the world, literally!

שבת שלום! שמור את יום השבת לקדשו. אי"ה, השמירת שבת שלנו יגן עלינו ועל כל אחינו בני ישרא-ל! אמן


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