The soft strands of music waft through the air as the kallah, dressed in stunning white, is led by her joyful parents to the chuppah. But something is strange here – where is the chosson? Suddenly there is a commotion in the front, as the chosson leaps over the fence and pushes his way through the crowd. Tying his tie, he jumps onto the platform, wipes the sweat off his brow and smiles to the frowning father-of-the-bride. “You see! I told you I would make it on time!” Hmmm… I wish them much luck in their marriage!
None of us would dream of acting like that silly chosson. But sadly enough, we repeat his mistake over and over. Isn’t it interesting that no matter what time Shabbos comes in, whether its at 4:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m., we still find ourselves rushing at the last minute to greet our kallah, the Shabbos Queen? Perhaps if we understood why Shabbos is our kallah and accepted that we are really going to our chuppah, we would find it easier to accept Shabbos properly.
Who Is My Chosson?
The Midrash (Breishis Rabba 11:8) tells us (according to the Vilna Gaon’s interpretation) that Shabbos complained to Hashem: “Every day of the week has its mate. Sunday has Wednesday. Monday has Thursday and Tuesday has Friday. Who is my mate?” R’ Shimshon Refoel Hirsh explains that a mate brings out the potential of its partner. The light was created on the first day, but the luminaries that bring forth the light were only created on the fourth day. The sky and seas were separated on the second day but were not inhabited by the birds and fish until the fifth day. On the third day, the land was revealed and trees and plants sprouted forth, but they did not serve any purpose until the sixth day when the animals and human beings were created to utilize them. Thus Shabbos asked, “Who will bring out my hidden potential?”
“Don’t worry,” answered Hashem, “Klal Yisroel will be your partner. As it says, Zachor es-yom haShabbos lekadsho – Remember the Shabbos to make it holy.”We are the ones who show the holiness and greatness of Shabbos. But how?
The Gemara (Bava Kama 32b) describes the Kabalas Shabbos of the amoraim, the basis of the time-honored song Lecha Dodi. “R’ Chanina would say, let us go out and greet the kallah, the Queen. R’ Yannai would wear special clothing and say “Bo’i Kallah, Bo’i Kallah – Come Bride! Come Bride!” Rashi explains that they fondly referred specifically to the “shevisa” of Shabbos – our refraining from work – as our bride. Why is that so?
Six Days You Shall Work
Let us examine in this week’s sedra the third of the Ten Commandments (Yisro 20:8-11). “Zachor es-yom haShabbos lekadsho – Remember the Shabbos to make it holy.” How? Chazal tell us (Pesachim 106a) that this means we must proclaim the holiness of Shabbos by saying kiddush. The Torah continues, “Sheshes yamim ta’avod ve’asisa chol melachtecha – six days you shall work and do all your labors.” Why does the Torah tell us that we can work during the week? Is there a reason why we should think otherwise? And furthermore, what is the connection to making kiddush?
Perhaps we can explain with the next posuk: “Veyom hashvi’i Shabbos l’Hashem Elokecha lo ta’aseh chol melachah – but the Seventh day is the Shabbos to Hashem your Lord, do not do anything that constitutes work.” We all know that Hashem provides all our needs and gives us our livelihood, and can do so even if we do not lift a finger. Nevertheless, we are commanded to do some level of hishtadlus – a means to provide the channels for Him to give to us. But lest we forget that hishtadlus is just an outward motion, the Torah tells us that when we work during the six weekdays, it must be with the realization that the seventh day is Shabbos. Through not working on Shabbos, even when it may appear to result in great losses, we instill in ourselves that He is the one who is really providing our needs. It won’t help to work on Shabbos – on the contrary, it can only hinder. Thus, even when we work the rest of the week, we bear in mind that it is only because Hashem told us to do so.
Now we can explain the entire commandment. Our making kiddush, together with refraining from work and being “shoves,” are both necessary to reveal the holiness of Shabbos. If we would just refrain from work, it may have been simply to have a day off. And just making a proclamation that He is our Master, without demonstrating that it is real to us would also be meaningless. Therefore, we proclaim that Hashem created the world and is our Master. This makes us the mate of Shabbos, as we reveal her message.
This is why the amoraim viewed the shevisa aspect of Shabbos as their beloved bride. The fact that we stop everything each Shabbos makes it clear to us that we are in good hands. We don’t have a worry because Hashem is taking care of us. Over and over we reiterate in davening that Hashem has given us this day of Shabbos with love, as it is possible to feel Hashem’s closeness more than during the rest of the week.
R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l once said, “We won the battle in America to keep Shabbos, but we still have to fight the battle of Erev Shabbos!” How can we win this fight, at least in our own homes?
The first step is to make a list of things that need to be done and how long they will take – doing this is making inroads to winning half the battle. If we rev our engines and go into full speed without wasting time, we will be ready with plenty of time. And, as we explained in our previous article (Getting Ready for Shabbos – January 4), this in itself honors Shabbos.
The next step is to prepare ourselves for the actual acceptance of Shabbos. The Rambam writes (Shabbos 30:1) that a person should sit with “koved rosh”– serious contemplation – awaiting the coming of the Shabbos. The fact that we refrain from work is not enough. Rather, we must internalize the idea that we are now stopping all work for the sake of Hashem. We are placing ourselves in His Hands and view all our work as done. Then, when it comes to the long awaited moment of our chuppah with the Shabbos Queen, our hearts will be full of true joy. Finally, we are united with our Beloved One. A person who rushes into Shabbos like that silly chosson shows that he has missed the boat!
Even if we don’t manage this contemplation, let us at least make sure we always come to shul calmly and on time, allowing us to contemplate the words of Kabalas Shabbos and Lecha Dodi. And then, when we turn around and say “Bo’i Kallah, Bo’i Kallah,” let us do so with ecstasy! Hopefully, through all our preparations, we will truly feel that we are greeting our bride, the beloved Shabbos.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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