June 3, 2024
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June 3, 2024
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The Greatest Gift That Keeps on Giving

Amongst my cherished and earliest childhood memories is the sense of peaceful tranquility that set in each Friday night as I walked hand-in-hand with my Opa, a”h singing “Shalom Aleichem” as we greeted the weekly Shabbos queen. While the passing of decades may have dulled the innocence, the magical feel that accompanies the onset of Shabbos is everlasting.

In his foundational book “Sabbath Day of Eternity” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes:

“There is a miracle in Shabbos. It is no exaggeration to say that the Jew has survived two thousand years of persecution and humiliation largely because he had the Shabbos. It was one factor that not only made him survive, but kept him alive, both spiritually and morally. Without the Shabbos, the Jew would have vanished. It has been said that as much as the Jew has kept Shabbos, so has Shabbos kept the Jew.”

There is a well-known astounding braysa that the Gemara quotes, in which Hashem said to Moshe: “I have a special gift in my treasure house and Shabbat is its name, and I seek to give it to Bnei Yisrael.” The braysa concludes with Hashem instructing Moshe: “Go inform them.”

What is so unique about the gift of Shabbos that Hashem informed Moshe that it emanated from his special storehouse and specifically instructed Moshe to make sure to inform the Jewish people about it?

In the words of Rabbi Akiva Tatz in his highly recommended book “Living Inspired,” he explains:

Shabbos represents an end-point, the “tachlis” of a process. The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated. It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed. Whenever the Torah mentions Shabbos, it first mentions six days of work—the idea is that Shabbos occurs only after, because of the work.”

A process must have an end-point to give it meaning. If work never achieves a result, the work is foolish. If an inventor builds a machine which maintains itself fully-fuels itself, oils itself, cleans itself—that is clever; provided that the machine produces something useful. A machine whose only output is its own maintenance would be ridiculous.

The result justifies the work, the end-point justifies the process. The pleasure of the freedom and relaxation which accompany an end-point are the direct results of the satisfaction of knowing that the job has been done. Shabbos teaches that all work must be directed to a goal. Traveling must be towards the traveler’s destination—if not, it is merely wandering.

Rabbi Tatz offers a brilliant explanation that has immensely impacted my Shabbos experience for the positive in the year since I first read it. In expounding on the description of Shabbos as “me’eyn olam haba, a small degree of the experience of the next world,” there is an idea that events and experiences in this physical world are meant to teach us about a higher parallel experience that we will ultimately encounter in the next world. As an example, the Gemara teaches that sleep is a sixtieth of death. A dream is a sixtieth of prophecy. Shabbos is a sixtieth of olam haba. What is so unique about the proportion of one in sixty?

In the poetic words of Rabbi Tatz, “One who has a sensitive ear will hear something very beautiful here.”

One in sixty is that proportion which is on the borderline of perception. We know regarding the laws of kashrus, there is a general rule of batel b’shishim, that forbidden mixtures of food are nullified if the ratio of forbidden food is one-sixtieth (or less) of the total mixture. One sixtieth is the borderline where taste can be discerned.

Concludes Rabbi Tatz: “The beautiful hint here is that Shabbos is one sixtieth of the intensity of olam haba—it is on the borderline of taste: If one lives Shabbos correctly, one tastes the next world. If not, one will not taste it at all.”

The obvious lesson here is that Shabbos is the ultimate gift automatically arriving each week. Failing to treat Shabbos with the special honor it deserves leads to our Shabbos having minimal taste, remaining right on the borderline of one sixtieth. Through properly honoring the royalty of Shabbos by dressing in our most special garb, singing joyous zemiros, sharing inspiring stories and words of Torah at our Shabbos tables and using the opportunity to connect to our spiritual roots, we will be adding immeasurably to our one sixtieth and will joyously taste the sweetness of olam haba in this world.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l once said:

“Shabbos is ‘Utopia now’ because on it we create, for twenty-five hours a week, a world in which there are no hierarchies, no employers and employees, no buyers and sellers, no inequalities of wealth or power, no production, no traffic, no din of the factory or clamor of the marketplace, no texts or tweets or other distractions that rob us of our rest and poise. It’s a dress-rehearsal for the messianic age. Shabbos is a pre-enactment of the world as we hope it will be at the end of time.”

Setting aside the numerous impactful teachings about Shabbos, opening an ear to own souls enables us to assign adjectives to an otherwise other-worldly experience that transcends words.

There is a cadence to Shabbos, a rhythm, a soul, a smell, a warmth, a spiritual feeling. Shabbos is disconnecting while reconnecting to our roots, to ourselves, to our essence, to our purpose, to our families, to our communities. Shabbos is taking stock of who we are and who we want to become. If the six days are about becoming, Shabbos is about being. Shabbos is the song of the soul, a wedding, malchus, royalty. Shabbos is the past, the present and the future. Shabbos is connecting to generations gone by and generations yet to come. Shabbos is serenity, hope, dreams, appreciation, our sign and our covenant with our Creator. Shabbos is a taste of the next world, in this world.

Let us embrace our greatest gift with a royal outpouring of the soul. In the words of my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger: “The Ribbono Shel Olam is waiting for us, and the prize is redemption, waiting right there in His outstretched hand.”

Daniel Gibber is a longtime resident of Teaneck and is a VP of Sales at Deb El Food Products. In addition to learning as much Torah as he can, he is also privileged to speak periodically on the topic of emunah and be involved in Jewish outreach through Olami Manhattan. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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