By late afternoon, my cell phone is usually down to one bar. My many phone calls deplete the battery. Our bodies are the same way. If we exert ourselves, if we work hard, we get tired and need to rest to recharge.
Why did Hashem make it that by the end of the day we’re exhausted and need to sleep? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go for 72 hours straight? We could get so much more accomplished!
Rav Dovid Cohen quotes Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, who explains that when we go to sleep there’s a war between our body and our neshama, soul. The neshama has a need to take charge of our lives. When we sleep, part of our neshama goes up to shamayim, Heaven, and connects to Hashem. That’s how we’re able to be active again the next day—because our neshama has been re-invigorated.
In Parshas Shemos, the enslavement of Klal Yisrael in Egypt begins: back-breaking labor, impossible quotas to fill and oppressive work. How were Bnei Yisrael able to keep going for such an extended period of time?
The midrash says that Moshe heard about the plight of his fellow Jews and went out to see their affliction. When Moshe returned to the palace, he told Pharaoh, “If you work your slaves nonstop every day, many will collapse and die. They need a day off to rest and regain strength.” Pharaoh agreed and asked Moshe to pick one day a week. Moshe selected Shabbos and Pharaoh granted his request.
When Bnei Yisrael received the Torah and the mitzvah of Shabbos, Moshe was very happy that he selected the correct day. The Tur says this explains the line in Shabbos morning Shemoneh Esrei, “Yismach Moshe b’matenas chelko, Moshe should be happy with the portion he was gifted.” The gift was that the Shabbos Moshe had earlier chosen was indeed the divinely selected day off.
On Seder night, we sit at the Seder and sing “Dayeinu.” One of the stanzas in “Dayeinu” is, “If Hashem would have given us Shabbos and not brought us in front of Har Sinai, dayeinu—it would have been enough.”
What a strange line. Why Shabbos out of all the mitzvos?
Rav Dovid Cohen explains that Shabbos is unique among all the mitzvos. Aside from being a mitzvah, it’s a day of menucha, rest, and a day of kedusha, holiness, since we refer to it as “Shabbos kodesh.” On Shabbos, our neshamah gets recharged. The menucha aspect does not mean sitting back and doing nothing. Rather, it’s a menucha from regular weekday activities, which allows us to focus on activities promoting kedusha and thereby making sure we’re connecting with Hashem. Recharging our souls on Shabbos gives us the strength we need for the other six days.
Last winter, I rode on an electric bike for the first time. My son explained to me that you charge it, and when you get on and pedal it, the electric battery helps you pedal. I couldn’t believe how much faster I could go than on a regular bike. At first, I was pushing the pedals, but then electricity kicked in, and I could travel much faster than if I was just pedaling myself. It was all great, until an hour later the charge was used up and it was time to go back home. That heavy bike was hard to pedal!
In the last chapter of Mesillas Yesharim (Perek 26) it says that kedusha is something that requires investment and effort. But ultimately, the level of holiness we attain is up to Hashem. We do our part in making our best efforts—Hashem does the rest. Kind of like the electric bike: Put in some effort and the battery will assist.
The great gift of Shabbos is that Hashem says, “You input your focus and efforts into Shabbos, and I’m going to increase the output.” The Ben Ish Chai says that every hour of learning on Shabbos is like a thousand hours during the week.
Every time we invest in Shabbos, the output is magnified—exponentially!! Enjoy your time of recharging on Shabbos, with the mix of menucha and kedusha. Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged, but contributions are always welcome. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected] For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.