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Parshas Shoftim: Shabbos Yerushalayim!

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Does the title of this article sound familiar?

Anyone over the age of 30 probably remembers a certain song by a certain boys choir with the “Shabbos Yerushalayim.” The song was released circa the late 1980’s, and you guessed it, it was sung by R’ Yerachmiel Begun’s Miami Boys Choir.

The song is about that special experience one feels when he spends Shabbos in Yerushalayim. I’m not sure if anything deeper was intended but there really are many interesting connections between Shabbos and Yerushalayim, and that’s where this week’s haftarah comes into play.

We read the fourth of the “sheva d’nechamata,” the seven haftaros of comfort Chazal established we should read after Tisha B’Av. They choose these seven to console us, to help us remember that despite the destruction and devastation of Tisha B’Av, Moshiach and the Ultimate Redemption will arrive.

The theme of the haftarah is visions of the rebuilding of Yerushalayim. Yeshaya HaNavi exhorts Klal Yisrael and really the “spiritual souls” of the city of Yerushalayim to arise and awaken from the dust of the remains and the rubble. “Hisoreri, hisoreri…kumi oori, oori – awaken, awaken, rise up, arise, arise . . .livshei bigdei sifarteich – don your glorious clothing….hisna’ari mei’afar kumi – shake off from the dust and rise up. . .” words we recognize from the Lecha Dodi song we say on Friday night at Kabbalas Shabbos.

Apparently, Rav Shlomo Alakavetz, the mystical composer of Lecha Dodi and student of the Arizal, saw many connections between Shabbos and Yerushalayim – and many years prior to the Miami Boys Choir wrote the original Shabbos Yerushalayim song, Lecha Dodi.

It is amazing to realize that the majority of stanzas in Lecha Dodi are not about Shabbos, but about Yerushalayim. The first two stanzas are directed toward Shabbos, but beginning with the third stanza of “Mikdash Melech” through “Bo’ee B’Shalom,” the theme is the destruction of Yerushalayim and the hope for its renewal and rebirth with the coming of Moshiach.  The question is why?  Why does Yerushalayim dominate Lecha Dodi and our mental and emotional preparations for Shabbos?

Evidently, when we enter Shabbos, we are entering Yerushalayim. In the perfection of the spiritual world of Shabbos, in the realm of the may’ein olam habah, our rendezvous with the next world, Yerushalayim is already rebuilt and the dust of the destruction is rubbed away. When Rav Shlomo Alkavetz read our haftarah, he immediately thought of Shabbos and this is why the theme of a rebuilt Yerushalayim is the theme of Lecha Dodi.

The Maharal often says that “devorim gedolim einam b’mikreh, great and important things are never happenstance.” Of course, nothing is coincidental and HaKadosh Baruch Hu is behind everything, but certainly great and important things have more of Hashem’s hashgacha than what we perceive as minor issues.

The enactment of Chazal to read these seven haftaros of comfort is definitely one of those devorim gedolim, as is the custom in Klal Yisrael to recite the Lecha Dodi. It is therefore fascinating that out of all seven, the one with all of the phrases used in Lecha Dodi is the 4th haftarah. Why is that significant?

The 4th haftarah corresponds with the 4th day of the week, Wednesday, and Wednesday has a special link to Shabbos. This is why we say the pasuk of Lechu Neraninah at the end of the Shir Shel Yom on Wednesday and in doing so anxiously anticipate Shabbos arriving in just three more days.

Let us explain.

The Shelah (Maseches Chulin 99-126) writes that according to Kabbalah (see also Reishis Chochmah 2:25–26) Shabbos is really the middle of the week and acts as the center. Envision a circle that is divided into six sections with the midpoint being Shabbos. All of the six days of the week have the power and strength of Shabbos at their center and core. All of the days of the week derive their value, significance, and blessings from Shabbos and they nurse their sustenance from Shabbos (as we say, “ki hi mekor haberachah”).

The Arizal taught that we have three parts to our neshama: the lowest is called the nefesh, the middle is the ruach, and the highest is the neshama. We’ll translate them as life force, spirit, and soul. We will not explain what each one does, but in the sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh it says that on Shabbos we receive our additional soul, our neshama yeseira, in parts. We receive the nefesh of the additional soul on Wednesday, the ruach on Thursday, and the neshama on Friday. The sefer implies that on Shabbos itself, we receive the complete “package.” Then, after Shabbos, the neshama yeseira leaves us in parts as well. The neshama aspect leaves on Sunday, the ruach on Monday, and the nefesh on Tuesday. Hence, we can tap into a meaningful connection to Shabbos every day. Every single day of the week has a connection to Shabbos and the special soul we receive for it.  Every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday we gradually lose a third of our additional soul, but just as quickly we begin to regain the special parts on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The 4th day, Wednesday signifies the path of Shabbos re-entering our midst and it is therefore quite appropriate that the 4th of the sheva d’nechemta is the haftarah which most connects with Shabbos and Lecha Dodi.

And these are some of the happenings in this week’s haftarah.

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