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Shabbos Chazon: Light in the Darkness

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Why do we call this Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon?

The word chazon is the first word of the haftarah and it means to see, to experience a vision. If that is the reason we have to ask what is so special about this word? And why give this Shabbos a special name anyway? The Shabbos after Tisha B’Av, Shabbos Nachamu (also the first word in its haftarah) is called that because the word nachamu means comfort and that Shabbos ushers in seven haftarot of comfort, shiva d’nechamta. We are certainly in need of comfort after Tisha B’Av, hence, Shabbos Nachamu. But what is unique about Chazon?

The Nesivos Shalom (Devorim page 19) answers that the fundamental idea we learn from the word chazon at the beginning of the haftarah is perhaps the most significant principle we need to help us endure galus.

“Chazon,” says Yeshaya HaNavi, “see the vision.” “Banim gidalti ve’romamti vehaim pashu Bi, I raised my children and they rebelled against Me.”

Even though we have sinned greatly, we remain Hashem’s children – it is a status we can never lose! And one day, we will once again have a full, loving relationship with Him. Presently, we can completely feel this relationship only on Shabbos. On Shabbos we experience the chazon, the vision of being Hashem’s children always – through sin and exile until renewal and redemption. And on Shabbos Chazon, we feel the reality of being Hashem’s children most deeply as we attach ourselves to Him, even during the darkest time of the year.

During the Nine Days, we focus on Churban Bais HaMikdash and the suffering Klal Yisrael has experienced through the ages. We are meat-less, wine-less, wedding-less, music-less, laundry-less, haircut-less. We are steeped in gloom and darkness. Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the year looms upon us.

In the middle of all this grief and distress comes Shabbos. Shabbos, the day of glory, holiness, sanctity, and spiritual light seems so out of place. How can we go from the sadness of the Nine Days to the joy of Shabbos? And how can we leave the spiritual power of Shabbos and enter the misery and melancholy once again?

The darker a room is, the more powerful the effect of even a single match burning. During the Nine Days, when all is dark within the Jewish people, the light of Shabbos shines brighter than all year long. There is no other time when Shabbos is as appreciated and cherished.

Sefer Maor VaShemesh (Rimzei Bain HaMetzorim) writes that Shabbos Chazon is the most exalted and powerful of all the Shabbosos. This is because of the distance we feel from Hashem and the spiritual lowliness we experience during the Nine Days. Because we are at the lowest point of the year, it takes much more strength and power to lift us out of our meek state. Although Shabbos regularly elevates us, removing us from the ordinary and mundane into the transcendent and sublime, Shabbos Chazon raises us more even more, because of our inferior state at this time.

Continues Tiferes Shlomo, Shabbos in galus, particularly Shabbos during the Nine Days, actually gives the Ribbono Shel Olam more pleasure and nachas than a Shabbos during the time when the Batei Mikdash stood. Contrast is the key. In exile, the Shechinah is distant from us, forced to exist away from Klal Yisrael. This is extremely painful for HaKadosh Baruch Hu as His ultimate desire is to be close with His children. This pain is what is called the ‘tzaar HaShechina’ and when we mourn our own tragedies we must also mourn and feel Hashem’s suffering as well. When we hurt, He hurts too. When we say Yehaye Shmay Rabbah, Hashem cries out, “Woe to Me, that I have exiled my children from My table!”

On Shabbos, the Ribbono Shel Olam brings the Shechinah back to us, even in the darkness of galus. Shabbos is mayain olam habbah, a taste of redemption and the World to Come, and therefore, the Shechinah returns to us on this day. The Nine Days bring in the darkest moments of the year, when the Shechinah is furthest away from us. When Shabbos Chazon arrives, a time of the greatest joy and reunion between Hashem and Klal Yisrael is achieved.

These thoughts explain a somewhat strange but interesting story.

The chazzan stepped up to the amud and begin to sing Tefillas Shabbos. The entire shul quickly became enthralled with the chazzan’s voice and enamored with the melodies and the way they seemed to almost become a running commentary on the poetry of Chazal’s praises to Hashem Yisbarach.

But then something happened.

The rav of the shul came up to the chazzan and motioned him to stop. The chazzan was confused. Surely, he wasn’t asking the chazzan to stop davening? What did the rav want? The rav pointed to a word in the back of the siddur, where common Shabbos niggunim were found. What was the word? The rav pointed to the word niggun, and shook his head as if to say that the chazzan should no longer sing any niggunim. They went back and forth a few times, until the chazzan got the message, and though he was confused at the rav’s strange behavior and instructions, he got the point and proceeded to melodiously lead the rest of the davening but without using any niggunim.

After the davening, the chazzan and a good portion of the members of the shul gathered around the rav to receive an explanation.

“My dear chazzan,” the rav said, “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you or hurt your feelings. I love the way you sing and the way you have led our tefilos over the years. But during the davening, I was overcome with a strong feeling and I felt compelled to act. Maybe I should have waited until after the davening. Perhaps. But I also wanted to express my thoughts to the entire olam, to the entire shul, and this was the most powerful way to do so.

“Why did I tell you to stop using any niggunim during the rest of the davening? Because something dawned on me. We have all used niggunim during davening and at the Shabbos seudos for years and years. And what do we do when the niggun seems to lend itself to an interlude connecting a kind of humming or sound? Most often, we say, ‘oy, yay, yay.’ For example, let’s take the zemer Kah Echsof. Many people sing, ‘Kah Echsof Noam Shabbos. . .’ and then sing ‘Oy, yay, yay, yay, yay. . .’

“I started to feel that we should stop saying and singing ‘oy’ on Shabbos. After all, what does the word ‘oy’ indicate in our daily language and communication? It is said upon hearing bad news, when someone mentions a problem or concern. I feel that on Shabbos, we must avoid thinking about worries, stresses and problems. We must avoid saying or singing all ‘oys.’ My dear chazzan, you were utilizing the word ‘oy,’ as we all do, very often in today’s beautiful davening, and I just felt that the time had come for us to stop using the word ‘oy’ on Shabbos!”

I can’t tell you if the above story is legend or an actual occurrence – either way, I think there’s a very good insight here.

We do place lots of ‘oys’ in our Shabbos zemiros and tefilos and even if we do so unconsciously and without thought just because it fits, maybe we should change all our ‘oys’ to some other words or sounds.

Sounds trite and unimportant?

Well, what if we really tried not to say or sing the word ‘oy’ on Shabbos? If we really actively and consciously did so, surely it would force us to think about the need for us to feel on Shabbos that all is taken care of, that we are living in the Palace of the King. That is our goal – to feel that Hashem, our King, our Father, takes care of our needs and we need not worry. We are in His House on Shabbos and as Chazal (Shabbos 153a) say, “klum chaser l’beis HaMelech—nothing is lacking in the house of the king.”

During the week, we feel the burdens and stresses of life, we feel so much is lacking, so much is chaser. So much is oy. But on Shabbos, we remind ourselves that we are mere creations and that our Creator is the one providing for all our needs. And then our melacha is asuya; our work is done. There is no more oy.

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

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2 Responses to “Shabbos Chazon: Light in the Darkness”

  1. Perri Boshes says:

    my husband and I took a beautiful walk last nite to commemorate the burning of the temples, the sky was so stunning when the sunset with reds and pinks, so glad I experienced hashems beauty and glory. I will never forget that moment.

  2. Perri Boshes says:

    my husband and I took a beautiful walk last nite to commemorate the burning of the temples, the sky was so stunning when the sunset with reds and pinks, so glad I experienced hashems beauty and glory. I will never forget that moment.

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