On the other hand, one who eats with proper intentions actually gives the soul much delight, for now it can fulfill its purpose! The soul is what transforms worldly pleasures into holiness, just as the altar in the Bais HaMikdash converted a lowly animal into a holy sacrifice. But if you don’t plug in the right intentions, the soul screams in pain because the animalistic side of the person rears its ugly head. This means that when we partake of a Shabbos meal we are walking a tightrope, and we must make sure to walk it carefully. For whenever we forget why we are eating, we will have turned a moment of holiness into one of emptiness.
But don’t worry — Hashem provided us with a safety net — the neshama yeseirah! The extra dose of kedusha provided by this neshama elevates our spirituality so that we can keep our animalistic tendencies under control. It helps us remember why we are eating — not merely to enjoy a gourmet meal but rather to celebrate the creation of this wonderful world. Now we understand the words of Rashi describing the power of the extra neshama. It does not save us from indigestion; rather, it makes sure that our angelic side will not be disgusted by all the extra food on Shabbos. This extremely holy addition helps us turn the mundane act of eating into a sacred experience.
So how do we make sure to remember at our Shabbos meals or “oneg Shabbos” that we are dining at the inauguration festivities of the Universe? Perhaps setting the proper atmosphere will do the trick. Take a few minutes to prepare a dvar Torah for the Shabbos table and a short story for the kids, so that the seudah will take on a brand new look. Singing a few Shabbos zemiros will also add to the royal ambience. And of course, making sure to avoid loshon hara and other topics that would displease the Host of the banquet will ensure that the meal stays “Shabbosdik.” All these things will help to imbue the food we eat with holiness, as we truly celebrate with the Master of the Universe the magnificent world that He created!
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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