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Parshas Pinchas: ‘Shabbos For Shabbos’

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A friend recently related the following personal story:

“A few months ago I was invited to a wedding of close friends. Though the bride and groom were from New York they were celebrating their wedding in a resort village in Mexico, south of Cancun. I, and other guests who were Shomer Shabbos arranged all the food.

“The Chabad shaliach in Cancun told me that as long as food is processed (baked, cooked, etc.) and I do not have raw vegetables or fruits, border patrol should not give us any problems.

“I was carrying most of the baked goods, including challah, kugel, and chicken. When I arrived at Customs and was given the declaration form to fill out, I noticed that the very first question was about possession of food. I asked the agent if that included processed foods. He replied that I should show him what I had. I opened up my bag and pulled out a challah. He looked at it and said, ‘You have three choices: You can eat it, throw it out, or give it to me.’ I looked at him in disbelief, ‘Are you serious? But I thought…’ He coldly repeated his words.

“I was very upset but told him I wanted to finish filling out the rest of the form.  He pointed towards a table off to the side. I sat down, and began to pray inaudibly that G-d please help us keep Shabbos properly.

“When I finished filling out the form, I walked back to the agent. He asked me for my passport and as he flipped through it began conversing with another agent in Spanish. I could not understand what they were saying but he kept pointing and mentioning Israel (I have been to Israel quite a few times recently).

“In my mind I thought he would never let me take the food. But then he looked up and said, ‘You’ve been to Israel?’ I nodded. ‘Are you Moslem?’ ‘No!’ ‘Are you Christian?’ ‘No, I’m Jewish!’ ‘You’re Jewish? Do you have one of those’… he pointed to his head in a circular motion. ‘Sure,’ I replied, removing my hat and showing him my kippah. He looked at me and said, ‘You know around here everyone believes in G-d.’ I replied excitedly, ‘I believe in G-d!’ He smiled warmly and said, ‘That’s sababah [1]   ‘Does this mean we’re okay?’ I asked nervously. By now his demeanor had completely changed, ‘Oh we’re totally okay.’ He then gave me a high five and waved me through. I grabbed my bag and hurried on.

“The Custom’s agent drastic change of attitude was truly incredible. Never underestimate the power of prayers and the merit of Shabbos!”

Parshas Pinchas contains a listing of the korbanos that are brought throughout the year – during each chag, the daily Tamid and the ones for Shabbos. Compared to the rest of the chagim, the Shabbos korbanos are quite paltry. “And on the Shabbos day: Two male lambs in the first year… The elevation offering of each Shabbos on its Shabbos… [2]

The lexicon used regarding Shabbos is unique. In regards to no other chag does it use an expression of bringing the korban on its own day. For example, it does not say, “the Pesach offering on its Pesach”, or “the Sukkos offering on its Sukkos.” Why is this unique expression used regarding Shabbos [3]?

Rav Chatzkel Abramsky zt’l offered the following homiletical explanation: The offerings of Shabbos are smaller than other holidays, to symbolize that the most important component of the offering of Shabbos is, “on its Shabbos”, i.e. to observe Shabbos properly, by safeguarding its laws, seeking to understand its greatness, and observing the spirit of the day to the best of one’s ability.

This thought is in tandem with the famous quote from Rav Shlomo Karliner zt’l [4]: “Master of the World, You gave me fish for Shabbos; You gave me meat for Shabbos; Please give me Shabbos for Shabbos!”

What is the meaning of the Karliner’s prayer?

 “Rabbi Yitzchak said: All of the issues of Shabbos are doubled…. Its offering was doubled (as it says), “On the day of Shabbos two lambs; its punishment is doubled… its reward is doubled…its warning is doubled…its song is doubled… [5]

Why is everything connected with Shabbos doubled?

When the navi Yeshaya speaks of comforting the beleaguered and aggrieved Jewish nation following their exile he exclaims [6], “Comfort, comfort My people, says G-d!” The Medrash comments [7], “They were stricken doubly, and they were comforted doubly.” Why was the Jewish nation punished doubly, and subsequently required to be comforted doubly?

Rav Yitzchak Kirzner zt’l explained that mortal man is composed of two diverse components – chomer (physical, tangible corporeal body) and tzurah (intangible life-force, spiritual, personality).

The ultimate goal of man is to raise himself to such a level wherein his chomer is subservient to his tzurah, in that his entire being (including his physical self) is subject completely to the Will of G-d. Such a person’s behavior is dictated by his logic, and he does not allow himself to be blindly drawn after his emotions and desires.

At the time of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, G-d wrought retribution against Klal Yisroel, not only because the nation abused its essence on a physical level and defiled its chomer, but also because as a result of their iniquities their tzurah became sullied and spiritually debased. Not only did they use their physical bodies to sin but they contemplated ways to sin, using their cognitive abilities to think of ways. Thus, the nation sinned on a dual level, and their double punishment reflected that duality. The ultimate consolation must therefore be doubled, in order to console us on a physical and spiritual level – to console both body and spirit.

With this idea in mind perhaps we can understand why every aspect of Shabbos is doubled. The greatness of Shabbos is that the holiness of Shabbos not only envelopes our tzurah – our spirit and souls – it also affords us the opportunity to elevate and sanctify our chomer – the physicality within ourselves and the world. On Shabbos we laud G-d for the gift of being able to “Eat rich foods, drink sweet drinks, for G-d will give to all who cling to Him, clothes to wear and bread of allotment, meat and fish and all delicacies.”

The Gemara [8] relates that on Shabbos we are granted a supplementary soul. Rashi offers a most intriguing explanation of the effect of the supplementary soul. He explains that the special soul grants us “a broadened heart for rest and joy, and to be open wide to be able to eat and drink without his soul becoming repulsed by it.” Normally when one partakes of a particularly filling and fatty meal he feels somewhat “animalistic” [9]. But on Shabbos one can indulge more than usual and not worry about that animalistic feeling, because his added soul compensates by injecting him with an added dose of spirituality.

With this idea in mind we can also understand why in our Shabbos prayers there is much mention of the ultimate redemption and our eventual return to rebuilt Jerusalem and the rebuilt Bais HaMikdash. Our descent into exile was inextricably bound to the defilement of our chomer and tzurah, both our bodies and our souls. The double consolation, which must include both body and spirit is reflected and symbolized by Shabbos, the day of physical AND spiritual bliss.

Shabbos is a window into the euphoric Messianic world when there will be complete devotion to G-d, on all levels. When we observe Shabbos we raise ourselves beyond the trivialities and sufferings of exile and focus on a world devoid of physical pain and spiritual sin. It is for that reason that the laws of the Three Weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash are suspended on Shabbos. We sing songs joyously during those Shabbasos, and even if Tisha B’av itself coincides on Shabbos we eat meat and drink wine.

The exile represents the tragedy of the wandering collective Jewish body and soul, and on Shabbos wherever a Jew is he is at home in the palace of the King.

The Karliner prayed that he not only merit experiencing the physical delights of Shabbos, but also the spiritual bliss of Shabbos.  At times one can observe all the laws of Shabbos properly, yet not feel the idyllic sense of elevation that Shabbos provides. One must pray that he merit that greatness, as we state in the Mussaf prayers of Shabbos, “Those who taste it merit life, and those who love its precepts have chosen greatness.”



[1] An Arabic word, it’s Israeli slang- the equivalent of the American, “Cool”

[2] Bamidbar 28:9

[3] The only exception is in regards to Rosh Chodesh it also says, “This is the elevation offering of each month on its month.” But in regards to that verse the Gemara (Yoma 65b) derives a law from those words.

[4] Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach a’h repeats this thought when he sings about Shabbos

[5] Medrash Tehillim (92); quoted by Rabbeinu Bechaye, parshas Pinchas

[6] Yeshaya 40:1; opening verse of haftarah for Shabbos Nachamu (Vaeschanan)

[7] Yalkut Shimoni

[8] Beitzah 16a

[9] In Yiddish the word is ‘grub’; it does not translate well into English

About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.


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