You will not have much time this week for your gathering – the haftorah is very short, only ten pesukim.
(Let me be clear. I most certainly do not support Kiddush Clubs for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the what should be obvious lowliness of leaving a shul minyan to go and have a whiskey party, and not being able to wait until after davening. Despite efforts to combat these gatherings, I know they still exist and figured I would warn “the guys” about the brevity of this week’s haftorah.)
Short, yes, but very sweet. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has sweet things to tell us about the rebuilding of Yerushalayim after the destruction and exile.
One message that immediately jumps out at us comes from the third and fourth pesukim whose phrases we should all recognize.
“Ki yamin u’smol tifrotzi. . .al tiri, ki lo seivoshi ve’al sikalmi – for you will spread out to the right and to the left. . .do not fear, for you will no longer feel embarrassed nor humiliated.” (Yeshaya 54:3-4)
I hope you know where in the davening these phrases are mentioned. Correct! They are in the Lecha Dodi we sing on Friday night at Kabbalas Shabbos forming the theme of two stanzas:
“Lo sivohsi velo sikalmi mah tishotchachi umahtsehemi, bach yechesu aniyei ami vinivnisah ir al tilah – Do not be embarrassed, do not be ashamed! Why be dejected? Why moan? All My suffering people will find comfort in you and a city will be rebuilt upon the hill!”
“Yamin u’smol tifrotzi ve’es Hashem ta’aritzi, al yad ish ben partzi, venismecha venagila—to the right and left you will spread out and you will praise Hashem. Through the hand of the descendant of Peretz (Moshiach), you will then be joyous and cheerful.”
Thus, the Navi Yeshaya fulfills the role of comforter, telling us of the amazing times we will yet experience with redemption and the coming of Moshiach. This is why this section of Navi was chosen by Chazal to be one of the “sheva d’nechamta,” one of the seven haftoros after Tisha B’Av whose design is to console us over the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash.
So, we encounter these themes in the haftorah this week, but we also meet them during each Kabbolas Shabbos, which leads us to the following question: What in the world do these themes have to do with Shabbos? Why are we singing about Yerushalayim in Lecha Dodi?
In fact, analyze this.
Did you ever wonder why it is that the majority of the stanzas in Lecha Dodi do not discuss Shabbos at all? The first two stanzas are directed toward Shabbos but, beginning with the third stanza of “Mikdash Melech” and continuing all the way to “Bo’ee BaShalom”, Shabbos is not the theme; rather, the destruction of Yerushalayim and the hope of its renewal and rebirth with Moshiach is the topic. Why?
In addition, we know that we are not supposed to mention anything on Shabbos that could bring feelings of sadness. Why then do we sing about the destruction of Yerushalayim in the middle of Lecha Dodi? In fact, for this very reason, amazingly, there are some Sefardic siddurim that do not list the stanzas in Lecha Dodi that bring up the destruction of Yerushalayim (Asifas Gershon Shabbos, page 194). Why then is this appropriate when strictly speaking, it would appear to be improper to bring up the tragedy of the Churban Bais HaMikdash at this juncture on Shabbos? How do we explain most of Klal Yisrael reciting these stanzas?
The Vilna Gaon in his commentary on the Siddur explains the following famous midrash:
“Shabbos came before the Ribbono Shel Olam and complained, ‘Each day of the week has a mate (ben zug). But I have no mate!’ Hashem replied, ‘Klal Yisrael will be your ben zug!’”
What exactly does this Midrash mean? How does each day of the week have a mate? And how is Klal Yisrael the mate of Shabbos?
Answers the Gra, on Sunday, light was created, but the creation of light only became complete on Wednesday, when the sun, moon, and stars were formed. Hence, Sunday is a ben zug with Wednesday. On Monday, the waters above and below were separated by the rakiah, firmament, but the creation of water was only completed when Hashem created the fish on Thursday and placed them in the waters below. Thus, Monday’s ben zug is Thursday. On Tuesday, Hashem separated the sea from the dry land. This was concluded on Friday when Hashem made the animals and man to inhabit the land. Tuesday partners with Friday. Shabbos was indeed alone, without a ben zug, until the Ribbono Shel Olam made Klal Yisrael the partner of Shabbos. But how is Klal Yisrael the mate of Shabbos?
Shabbos is a day of rest from physical involvement and creativity. Hashem designed Shabbos to be full of kedusha and spiritual potential. But someone was needed to actualize that potential. This is what Shabbos means when it complains to Hashem that it has no ben zug, it has no partner to complete its function.
HaKadosh Baruch Hu answers that Klal Yisrael is the ben zug. Klal Yisrael utilizes Shabbos as a day of spiritual ascension, a day of coming closer to G-d, through more time devoted to intensive tefillah, talmud Torah, and family. The Jewish people find in Shabbos an ability to regain their bearings as they remind themselves of what they should be striving for in this world.
Coming back to Lecha Dodi, Rav Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, explained that since Shabbos is the day that we can access a great potential for coming close to Hashem, it is on Shabbos that we feel the loss of Yerushalayim most profoundly. Without Yerushalayim, without the Bais HaMikdash, we are prevented from attaining the ultimate closeness with Hashem. As Shabbos enters, and we feel a special intimacy with the Ribbono Shel Olam, we ask Him to take this intimacy even further and allow us to come to Yerushalayim HaBenuyah, so that we will attain the highest level of attachment to Him. This is why most of Lecha Dodi discusses Yerushalayim and the Redemption.
Rav Eliyahu Munk in the Olam Hatefilos (page 12) reminds us that when we enter into Shabbos, we come into the Mayayn Olam Habah, a rendezvous with and microcosm of the next world. For 24 hours, we live within a world of perfection, free of worry, anguish, and pain.
Consequently, on Shabbos, when we think of Yerushalayim, the Bais HaMikdash, and galus, we don’t think of sorrow and groans, but hope and salvation. Bringing up these topics on Shabbos is not a saddening experience; it is one which bursts with hope, optimism and anticipation. Thus, when we look to Lecha Dodi and its mentions of Yerushalayim, we look at the stanzas not with a mournful theme but rather as one of deliverance.
On Shabbos, Yerushalayim is not a destroyed city but a “mikdash melech ir melucha,” a city fit for the King of all kings. We tell Yerushalayim to get up and show its beauty, kumi tze’i mitoch hahafecha. If you track all of these stanzas, you find this same optimistic tendency. Just as Yeshaya tells us in this week’s hafotrah, we say, Lo sevoshi velo sikalmi, there is no reason for Yerushalayim to be ashamed because redemption is coming soon.
Indeed, may it come very soon.
But until then, let us properly experience our microcosm of redemption with each and every Shabbos.Rabbi Boruch Leff
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