"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shabbos: Utterly transcending the world

Shabbos: Transcending the world
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Our sages say, “He who toils before Shabbos, will eat on Shabbos.”[1] On the simple level, this means that in order to eat a ready meal on Shabbos, one should toil to prepare the food before Shabbos. But on the deeper level, this alludes to the relationship between the divine service of the weekdays and of Shabbos. During the week we prepare ourselves spiritually for Shabbos, and so the more one toils to accomplish the divine service required during the week, the higher the level of the Shabbos experience that follows it.

The main theme of Shabbos is menuchah, rest, as our sages say, “What was the world lacking [after the completion of the six days of creation]? Menuchah. When Shabbos came, menuchah came.”[2] Thus, the verse tells us, “And Hashem completed [His work of creating the world] on the seventh day.”[3] But didn’t He complete the creation on the sixth day, as it states concerning the sixth day in the previous verse, “And He completed the heavens, the earth, and all their hosts”? No, for in a sense, Hashem did create something on Shabbosmenuchah.

This is related to the intense divine revelation on Shabbos, for Hashem is called menuchah.[4]

To explain, everything in the world is in a state of constant movement, for it is fundamentally bound by the limitations of time and space. Time is constantly changing—the future is becoming the present, and the present is becoming the past.[5] And space too, which is fundamentally intertwined with time, also involves movement.[6]

Hashem, however, is infinite, and so He completely transcends space—He does not move from one place to another—and He transcends time, a construct that He created. Thus, Hashem is called menuchah, for in His Essence, He is utterly unchanging—the epitome of true menuchah.

We mentioned the verse, “And He completed [“vayechulu”] the heavens, the earth, and all their hosts.” Vayechulu can also imply kilayon, yearning,[7] for after He finished creating the world, on the first Shabbos, Hashem revealed the level of menuchah associated with His Essence, and this inspired all His creations with a yearning to rise up and reach this level of menuchah.

This also explains the deeper meaning of the weekly cycle.[8] In the daily Shacharis liturgy, we speak of Sunday as being the “first day.”[9] Since everything in Torah is precise, if so much time has passed since the first day of Creation, why don’t we count by the number of days since creation, or use some other more precise phrase when counting?

The answer is that since on Shabbos the level of Hashem’s very Essence shines, this elevates the world completely beyond its mundane state. Thus, on the following Sunday, the mundane world is indeed new, both in space and time, and so we start the count anew.

Likewise, on every Shabbos, the Jew who keeps Shabbos as is required is given the privilege to “eat on Shabbos”—to personally experience a special revelation from Atzmus, Hashem’s very Essence. This comes as a reward for his or her divine service during the week—“He who toils before Shabbos,” and renews and invigorates him physically and spiritually in preparation for the coming week.

Based on Sefer HaMa’amarim 5722, s.v. Basi LeGani, pp. 132-133. 

[1] Avoda Zara 3a.
[2] Bereshis 2:2, Rashi.
[3] Bereshis ibid.
[4] Kesser Shem Tov §400-401. Likewise, Hashem is called Shabbos (Zohar 2:88b).
[5] Sha’ar HaYichud VehaEmunah ch. 7. Likkutei Torah, Berachah 98a.
[6] This is all the more so according to modern science, which teaches that nothing is truly stationary; everything in the universe is moving. Likewise, all matter consists of atoms and molecules that are in constant motion.
[7] Ohr HaTorah Bereshis 42b ff.
[8] Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 25a. Ohr HaTorah, Berachah, p. 1891. ibid., p. 1897 ff.
[9] “Hayom yom rishon laShabbos.”

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