The special days of Tishrei have come and gone. But hopefully, we managed to elevate our level of spirituality so that we now feel closer to Hashem, even if just a little bit. I think that now is the right time to approach an extremely mystical aspect of Shabbos.
The Talmud teaches us (Beitza 16a) that on erev Shabbos, Hashem gives each person a neshama yeseira — an extra soul, which leaves after Shabbos. Of course, the full understanding of what this means is beyond our comprehension, but let us see if we can process it on a simple level. Rashi (ibid.) writes that it “opens our hearts in order to have more relaxation and joy… so that we can eat and drink without the soul being disgusted by it.” Hmm… that doesn’t sound too holy! Why should a heiligeh neshama help us consume large amounts of food?
What is the reason for the mitzvah of oneg Shabbos, to enjoy Shabbos through eating, drinking, and relaxing? Let us use the following parable, based on the Midrash Tanchuma (Breishis 2), to explain.
After spending ten years planning and building his country estate, Bob the billionaire threw an inauguration party for all his close friends. When each guest arrived, they received a luxurious Lexus SUV for a self-guided tour of all the gardens, orchards, lakes, and sporting areas. Everyone was encouraged to spend time enjoying the areas that appealed to them. Finally, toward evening, everyone made their way to the large mansion perched on a hill overlooking the estate. They were given a tour of the mansion and were allowed to try out the state-of-the-art technology and comforts in each room. In the beautiful dining room, they were served a seven-course gourmet meal on stunning dining ware while an orchestra played in the background. As they left, they had no doubts anymore — all of Bob’s hard work and planning had really produced a splendid place to live!
Shabbos is the anniversary of the day Hashem finished creating the world and He tells us: “Come and see what a splendid world I created! Partake of the delicacies, contemplate the wisdom found in every inch of the universe, and realize how everything is made for your pleasure.”
In a previous article (“A Psalm for Shabbos” 7-19-2013) we explained how even though the verses of the Psalm of Shabbos (Chapter 92) don’t seem to be connected to Shabbos, they concisely describe the theme of the day. Dovid HaMelech is teaching us that on this day, when the world was completed, we should look around the world, enjoy its many aspects, and proclaim: “I rejoice at the work of Your hands! How great are Your deeds Hashem!” We must realize that on every Shabbos Hashem is inviting us to the inauguration festivities for the world! R’ Avigdor Miller zt”l would say that our job on Shabbos is to “try to smack your lips and feel how delicious it is — feel the taste of Shabbos!”
Let us take, for example, the kindness of sleep. A man may be full of worries and feel physically and emotionally exhausted, but when he wakes up in the morning he feels like a new person! In addition, while he is sleeping and not in motion, the body puts all the energy that is now available into repairing damaged cells. The heart also does not have to work as hard to pump blood and has time to rejuvenate. Thus, we wake up feeling refreshed! Bearing this in mind, we can now properly fulfill the mitzvah of taking a nap on Shabbos. Go ahead and take a large dose of that wonderful Jewish sleeping pill called cholent! Snuggle under the covers and enjoy the “heavenly” pleasure of a short Shabbos snooze. But make sure to take a moment before you sail off to dream land to thank Hashem for the wonderful creation of sleep, and especially the ability to fall asleep without too much delay!
Feasting on Shabbos is a great mitzvah, but if we don’t bear in mind the purpose of eating, it will not be a mitzvah anymore. In fact, it’s even worse. The Navi Yeshaya (1:14) allows us to hear the soul as it cries out in agony: “Chodsheichem u’moadechim sonah nafshi — my soul abhors your Rosh Chodesh and your Yom Tov!” The Vilna Gaon in Aderes Eliyahu explains that Klal Yisroel’s level of yiddishkeit was so low that when they feasted during these days they were not doing so for the sake of Heaven, but rather to “fress” and enjoy themselves! Thus the soul calls them “your” Rosh Chodesh and “your” Yom Tov because they certainly had nothing to do with Hashem. Their neshamos wished that these special days wouldn’t happen, for on those days people eat more than usual, which just causes more torture to the soul.
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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