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Shabbos – a Day with Hashem: Feast or Folly?

Someone sent me this e-mail: “The ABC’s of Purim: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”

Shabbat Table

When we were saved, Chazal established a mitzvah to have a splendid seudas Purim – in order to show that we had learned our lesson. Now we eat delicious foods for the sake of Heaven! We savor each morsel as an expression of our gratitude to Hashem for saving us not merely from physical destruction but also from straying away from our purpose in this world. With this we can understand R’ Yisroel Salanter’s zt”l unique explanation of the mitzvah to get drunk. R’ Yisroel would say that we get drunk to test ourselves – to see if we have elevated the body itself from its animalistic leanings. When our minds are fogged, and the body is on its own, does the body express its love for Hashem and His Torah or for something else, chas v’sholom? (Of course, someone who acts improperly when intoxicated should not get drunk, as he will be making the same mistake as the Jews did in Shushan – pursuing worldly pleasures for their own sake. Instead he should just drink a little more than normal.)

Eating for Eternity

In truth, this lesson applies every Shabbos. As we enjoy all the delicious food, it is important to remember that we are doing so for the sake of mitzvas oneg Shabbos – to enjoy Shabbos. (In a future article we will B’ezras Hashem elaborate on the reason for this mitzvah.) By having this in mind, we turn the purely physical act of eating into a spiritual one.

This gives us a better understanding of how Shabbos is “M’ein Olam Haba” – a preview of the World to Come. According to the Ramban, Ramchal, and many others, in Olam Haba we will have our bodies, but they will have been transformed through our efforts in this world into almost completely spiritual entities. Thus, even our physical aspects will be spiritual. So too, when we eat on Shabbos with the proper intentions, we will have entered Olam Haba on a smaller scale, because our physical actions will already have a spiritual nature.

Yes, this is quite a lofty level, but perhaps we can start by saying (or at least thinking) “lekovod Shabbos kodesh – I am doing this in honor of the Holy Shabbos,” before eating a piece of challah at each seudah. Although it may be an empty action at first, over time it will become real to us.

Our great Rabbis tell us that this last exile includes all the characteristics of the three previous ones. It is therefore no surprise that the pursuit of worldly pleasures is something that our society is busy with 24/7, and we must make sure not to get swept up by this craving. By eating properly on Purim, and every Shabbos, hopefully over the rest of the year we will not forget our mission in this world – to follow the dictates of our soul and not our animalistic desires.

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 kollel.zay@gmail.com.


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