Step 1: Revealing Hashem’s Presence
When we put away our sukkak and machzorim over a month ago, many of us let out a sigh wishing that these wonderful days of simcha and closeness to Hashem would never end. But in truth Hashem does not want it to be Yom Tov all year long. He wants us to take what we received during those special days and integrate it into our daily life. It sounds nice, but how are we supposed to do that? The answer is through Shabbos! This wonderful day, which comes every week, has the ability to lift us once again to those same spiritual heights and help us recharge our batteries for the coming week.
This raises a difficult question. Why is it that many people don’t experience that special intensity on Shabbos as they do on Yom Tov? One reason may be that they are missing the preparation. Like all of Yiddishkeit, the more you effort you put into something, the more you will get out of it. Because Yomim Tovim occur only a few times a year, we put special effort into understanding them and therefore receive more in return. However, Shabbos, which comes so often, remains an untouched topic for many people. They don’t know the meaning of Shabbos and certainly don’t know how to tap into it.
This can be seen from the Gemara in Masechtas Shabbos (10b): “Hashem told Moshe – I have a wonderful present in my treasure house and its name is Shabbos. Go tell Klal Yisroel about it.” Why did He have to tell them how special it is – when Shabbos arrives won’t they realize it for themselves? The only way to feel the kedusha of Shabbos is by understanding Shabbos and why it is special.
Let us embark on a fascinating voyage through the world of Shabbos. In this series of articles we will be’ezras Hashem touch on some of the important and intriguing aspects of this multi-faceted day. Hopefully this will make Shabbos an experience we and our families will look forward to every week.
We begin by clarifying what Shabbos is. Every Yom Tov gives us a special gift to take throughout the year. On Rosh Hashana we add to our yiras Sshamayim – fear of heaven; on Yom Kippur, we are given repentance; on Sukkos, simcha; and on Shavuos, the Torah. What do we receive from Shabbos?
The Darkness Of This World
Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt”l explains that in reality, when we look around at the world, we should be immediately overcome with love and fear of Hashem, as the Rambam says (Yesodei Hatorah 2:2): “How does one come to love and fear Hashem? When a person examines all of Hashem’s amazing and huge creations and sees the astounding wisdom which is endless, he is immediately overcome with love of Hashem and praises and glorifies Him … and he will have an extreme desire to know more about the Great Hashem…. And when he thinks about these things he immediately will jump back and be filled with fear and trepidation as he realizes how he is such a small and lowly creature standing with such puny intelligence in front of the One with Perfect Intellect.” So why don’t we also feel this way? The Gemara in Bava Metziyah (83b) reveals the answer.
“‘Ta’shes choshech va’yehee l’ayla – darkness settles and it is night’ (Tehillim 104:20) – the night refers to this world (the physical world), which is compared to night.” We learn from here that Hashem has placed a great darkness in this world that hides His presence. Our job is to repel this darkness, and thus see Hashem everywhere. During the week this is a difficult task, as we are involved with worldly pursuits, such as earning a living and taking care of our needs.
Shvisa – Putting Everything on Halt
On Shabbos, though, everything stops, and it is much easier to reach this goal. We do not involve ourselves in any activities of production, so much so that the Shulchan Aruch (306:8) tells us that on Shabbos we must view all our work as finished. The reason: Shabbos is “M’ein Olam Haba” – a preview of the World-to-Come. In Olam Haba we will be exclusively involved in the greatest pleasure – basking in Hashem’s Glory. Nothing else will exist besides Hashem and us. Shabbos is similar, but on a smaller scale. The King comes to spend time with us, and we therefore gladly remove ourselves from all other activities. We must cook and bake before Shabbos, because once the Guest has arrived we want to spend all our time with Him. And Hashem’s presence is everywhere. Every second of the day should be a reminder that it is Shabbos. We walk differently, talk differently and prepare food differently. In the street we do not carry (if there is no eiruv) and we do not drive. And most of all – we cut ourselves off from the world! We turn off our BlackBerries and iPhones, and we are left only with Hashem. Now the darkness of the world is just a thin wrapper, which can easily be removed.Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus