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A Psalm For Shabbos

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Ah, Shabbos Nachamu! Finally the three weeks of mourning have finished, and the seven-week period of comforting, of nechama, has begun. We breathe a sigh of relief and life goes back to normal. But wait a minute – it doesn’t seem like anything has changed! We still do not have the Bais HaMikdash or the extreme closeness to Hashem which we so yearn for! So why do we switch over to a process of comforting? Furthermore, since this entire period is referred to as a time of comforting, why do we find an expression of that nechama specifically on Shabbos through the special haftaras, and not during the week?

Let us start with Chapter 92 of Tehillim:A psalm, a song for the day of Shabbos.” Although we might have expected this chapter to discuss the beauty of Shabbos and its different aspects, in truth there seems to be no apparent connection. So why is this the special mizmor of Shabbos? Harav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l explains the connection with a beautiful parable.

Making Sense Out Of Chaos

A couple once discovered a beautiful estate with stunning gardens, containing the most exquisite flowers and trees. Immaculate brick paths led them past creeks and towering fountains of waters. “If this is what the grounds look like, the house itself must be an amazing edifice,” said the husband. Suddenly, in front of their eyes stood a massive mansion in the most decrepit state! There were gaping holes in the roof, and the walls seemed to be falling down! “The owners must have abandoned their home,” commented the wife. “But if so, why are they keeping the rest of the estate in such good shape?” asked the husband. After looking again carefully they realized that the owners were just remodeling in order to make it even more beautiful!

When we look around us, it seems that evil people can do what they want, and many times they are even given control over us. Tragedies befall the best of people, and their suffering pains our hearts. We may mistakenly think that Hashem has chas v’sholom left the world to run on its own. But on the other hand, with just a little contemplation we can see that Hashem’s greatness, wisdom and kindness fill every inch of the universe.

Let’s take our feet, for example. Imagine trying to design and manufacture a device that would transport you on all sorts of terrains – flat and hilly, rocky, sandy or icy. It must also help you climb over walls and up trees and walk on narrow ropes. Don’t forget that it must also allow you to leap, jump and swim. And when you sit, it needs to be tucked out of the way. These are just a few of the many amazing features of our legs that Hashem has provided us free of charge!

Everywhere we look, we see Hashem’s great kindness and involvement in our lives, ensuring smooth operation. Most of us always have food in the house, and we never go to sleep on an empty stomach. Our digestive and respiratory systems run smoothly, and we are generally healthy. “Gadlo,” the signs of His greatness, “vetuvo,” His kindness, “malei olom,” fill the world! (Shachris of Shabbos)

Once it becomes clear to us that the all merciful Great Conductor is orchestrating everything that happens in this world, we will realize that even seemingly bad things are for our best interest. And if we don’t understand now, we will understand in the World to Come.

We can gain this awareness all week long, but on Shabbos it becomes crystal clear. On a simple level, this is because on Shabbos we stop all our activities and have time to truly see and feel that Hashem is the epitome of good. But it is deeper than that. On this day the universe was completed, and the purpose of creation becomes clear. This world is not our final destination – it is the place to earn the eternal reward of the World to Come by fulfilling the Torah. Thus we realize that everything that is happening is because Hashem in his infinite kindness wants to help us partake in the greatest happiness possible – Olam Habba!

Hashem Is Just!

We now understand the essence of the Psalm of Shabbos:

“It is good to Praise Hashem and sing to Your name – O’ Supreme One.” On Shabbos we see clearly how You are the “Supreme Administrator” and everything is under Your control.

“To relate Your kindness in the morning, and Your faith in the nights.” How did we reach this level, to assert our faith in Hashem even during the darkness of the night, when we don’t understand what is going on? Because we first started to develop our sensitivity during the day, seeing and proclaiming His kindness when the good was obvious.

“For you have gladdened me, Hashem, with Your deeds – I rejoice at the work of Your hands.” The more I study your actions and creations, the happier I become, as I become more and more aware of Your greatness.

“How great are Your deeds Hashem – Your thoughts are unfathomable.” Lest we fool ourselves by thinking that we understand everything in this world, we proclaim that we cannot possibly understand the depths of Hashem’s actions. We continue and state that the boor and the fool cannot understand why the evil people seem to prosper and flourish – but we know that it is all part of Hashem’s great plan and purpose. Ultimately we will see how it was all for the sake of destroying the evil and rewarding the righteous.

And finally we end: “To declare that Hashem is just, my Rock in whom there is no wrong.” This is the bottom line and declaration of Shabbos – Hashem is completely good!

Let us now return to the weeks of comforting. Yes, we are still in exile and must continue mourning. But we cannot stay in the past- we must start the process of rebuilding! Therefore, in order that we should not feel forsaken and that there is no hope of redemption, Hashem commands the prophet Yeshaya: “Nachamu nachamu ami – Go comfort My nation!” Tell them that I am with them in galus, and all their trials and travails are for their good, to bring them closer to the special days which will be very soon. Knowing this will help us to continue to hope and strive for the geulah and to fix the problems that prevent Moshiach from coming.

However, the true effect of this comfort can only be felt on Shabbos. For, as we explained, Shabbos is the day when we truly know and feel that Hashem is only Good. Therefore, Chazal established the main transmission of the message of these seven weeks specifically on Shabbos. And if we take time each Shabbos to discover another one of Hashem’s overwhelming kindnesses, the lesson will truly be learned.

Dovid Hamelech tells us (Tehillim 34:9) “Ta’amu ore’u ki tov Hashem – taste and you will see that Hashem is Good!” With just a little effort and contemplation you will see the truth! So, if you are enjoying the shade of a tree Shabbos afternoon, savoring the taste of a cold lemonade and a pleasant breeze gently caresses your cheek, don’t lose that opportunity! Say out loud: “Thank You Hashem for such a wonderful creation!” Discovering and internalizing this fact over and over will make it crystal clear to ourselves that Hashem has not and will not ever forsake us!

About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus, raised and educated in Los Angeles and subsequently Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Yerushalayim, is the Rosh Kollel of the Zichron Aron Yaakov Kollel in Kiryat Sefer , Israel. He lectures for the public and is the director of the Chasdei Rivka Free Loan Gemach. He can be reached at kollel.zay@gmail.com.


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