“Just one Shabbos and we’ll all be free!” We all know MBD’s classic song, which swept the Jewish music scene in the 80’s, and it is actually based on the following midrash (Shemos 25:12): “If Klal Yisroel will keep one Shabbos properly, Ben-Dovid (a reference to Moshiach, not MBD…) will immediately come.” However, this requires explanation – why is it that we will be redeemed through keeping Shabbos? Let us discover an amazing new aspect of Shabbos that will also help us to properly utilize the upcoming “Three Weeks” – the days of mourning over the Bais HaMikdash.
A Miniature Mikdash
R’ Shimshon Pinkus zt”l (Shabbos Malkasa 3:7) points out that there are many comparisons between the Bais HaMikdash and Shabbos. First and foremost, the main purpose of the Mikdash was to bring atonement for our sins. Similarly, when we proclaim “Vayechulu” on Shabbos, two angels place their hands on our heads and remove our sins (Shabbos 119b).
Just as in the Mikdash there was a mitzvah to set up the oil and wicks and then light the menorah, so too there is a mitzvah to first set up the candles and then light them before Shabbos.
Just as in the Mikdash there was a mitzvah to eat from certain parts of the korbonos, the sacrifices, so too we have a mitzvah to eat three lavish meals on Shabbos. The foods eaten at these meals take on a new dimension, because we elevate them to spiritual heights in the same way that we eat korbonos. Not only that, but just as the Kohen in the Mikdash received his portion as a present from “Hashem’s Table,” so too Hashem tells us that He will pay for all our Shabbos expenses. We are all guests at His table!
Just as in the Mikdash the Kohanim were obligated to wear special priestly garb, so too on Shabbos we must wear special Shabbos clothing. The Kohanim washed their hands and feet before performing the service in the Mikdash, so too we must wash at least our hands, feet and face before Shabbos.
We could go on and on – but what is the underlying reason for all these comparisons? The answer, as we have explained many times, is that both in the Mikdash and on Shabbos we are together with Hashem. So much so, Chazal tell us (Sefer HaZohar 2:179) that even though Hashem removed His presence from the Mikdash, on Shabbos His presence dwells with us, albeit on a smaller scale. Thus, the same preparations and conduct that were needed in the Mikdash are required for Shabbos.
With this we can now explain why keeping Shabbos will bring the redemption. We have quoted in the past the words of the Nefesh HaChaim that Hashem’s presence in the Mikdash was a reflection of His presence in our hearts. When we distanced ourselves from Him, He in turn distanced Himself from the Bais Hamikdash. The more we bring His presence back into our lives and souls, the more He will come back, until eventually there will be enough Shechina to warrant the return of the Mikdash. Thus, by keeping Shabbos properly with all of its laws and customs, we create a miniature Mikdash and bring Hashem close to us. The result of having the Shechina in our hearts is that there will now be enough Shechina to bring the final redemption.
Feeling His Closeness
However, there is another important aspect of the Mikdash that can greatly increase the presence of Hashem in our souls. In Sefer Ezra (Chapter 3) we find a description of the great celebrations that took place at the inauguration of the Second Bais HaMikdash. “And all the people called out with a great shout of praise and thanks to Hashem for the establishment of the House of Hashem. But many of the Kohanim and Leviim and Elders who had seen the First House with their eyes were crying with a loud voice . . . And the people could not distinguish the exclamations of joy from the sound of the weeping.” Rashi explains that the Elders cried because they saw the drastic difference between the First Bais HaMikdash and the second one.
This is quite difficult to comprehend. True, before King Herod renovated the second Bais HaMikdash, it did not compare to the beauty and splendor of the first one, but is that a reason to be so sad at the festivities?
Furthermore, Harav Shlomo Brevda zt”l points that the amount of people who were still alive after the 70 years of exile must have been very small in comparison to the large amount of younger people. In addition, they must have been at least 80 years old to remember the Bais HaMikdash. How was it that this small group of elders managed to drown out the roars of joy of the multitudes of youngsters with loud voices and healthy lungs?
The answer to these questions is found in the Midrash (Pesikta Rabasee Chapter 36). The elders cried because they saw that the Shechina that had dwelled in the first Bais HaMikdash was not present in the second Bais Hamikdash. On a simple level, Shechina means where Hashem’s presence can be felt and sensed in a stronger manner, and that was now lacking.
Let us imagine these old men as they hobbled up the Temple mount, talking excitedly about how they would once again feel Hashem’s presence, something they sorely missed all these years. As they got closer they already imagined what it would be like, and they threw down their walking sticks as they literally flew along. But when they entered the building their hearts dropped like stones. Nothing. Zilch. Gurnisht. No Shechina. And then, all at once, a heart-rending cry erupted from the depths of their souls! The pain of not realizing their life-long dream of regaining their former closeness to Hashem was so great that it drowned out the people’s shout of joy —an expression of joy that was indeed heartfelt but didn’t resonate from the same depth of the soul.
We are similar to those youngsters who never had this feeling of closeness, and therefore cannot possibly comprehend what it means. Nevertheless, we must do our utmost to try to bring Hashem’s presence into our lives, which will allow us to partake in the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash.
And what better time to do so than on Shabbos, the day when Hashem’s presence is felt in a much stronger manner. If we take a moment here and there throughout Shabbos to imagine ourselves standing in the Bais HaMikdash on Shabbos, where Hashem’s presence is still found, we will change our whole Shabbos. For example, before Kabbalos Shabbos let us picture ourselves entering the Bais HaMikdash. Before Kiddush let us imagine that we are about to sit down to a meal of korbonos. When we sing zemiros, we can imagine ourselves as the Leviim singing in the Bais HaMikdash. When we learn Torah on Shabbos think how we are sitting down to learn with Hashem (as we explained in “A Time for Torah” 5-24-13). Living with this feeling will bring about a greater sense of Shechina in our hearts.
Let us use the Three Weeks, and specifically each one of the three Shabbosos, to try to connect ourselves to the Bais HaMikdash and ignite in ourselves the desire to once again feel Hashem’s closeness. By doing so, may we merit to once again “sing and dance to the sky with our spirits so high!”Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus
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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