The Sanctity of Shabbos
Taste of Talmud
Why does the Mishna list 39 different categories of creative activities that are prohibited on Shabbos? It would seem that the number could be less since there is an apparent repetition with some of the listed activities. For example, winnowing, sifting and separating are all ways of separating a mixture. Why do we count them as separate and distinct categories? In Tractate Shabbos 49b, Rabbi Chanina Bar Chama answers that these 39 activities correspond directly to the number of creative activities that were used in the building of the Mishkan. Rashi asks: What does the building of the Mishkan have to do with Shabbos? Rashi answers: The Torah, in Parashas Ki Sisa, puts these two commandments next to each other in order to teach us an important lesson. We learn from this that even though we were commanded to build a dwelling place for G-d, we are still not allowed to build it on Shabbos. The Chasam Sofer, Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg Zt”l, asks: “Why is it that the building of the Mishkan, whose purpose was to bring G-d’s presence into this world, does not supercede the laws of Shabbos. However, in order to save the life of a Jew on Shabbos, any activity is permitted?” Rabbi Sofer concludes that from here we learn that the inner connection that a Jew builds with G-d is even more beloved to G-d than the Mishkan. We can learn from this Mitzvah that when we build a life that allows G-d to rest comfortably within our midst, it is more beloved to G-d, than the construction of grand edifices. This is the true meaning of the command to build a sanctuary: Vi’asu Li Mikdash Vi’shachanti Besochom (and they should build for me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them). It does not say “in it” but rather “within them”, because each one of us is meant to be a dwelling place for G-d.
Taste of Halacha
It would be possible for a person to go to work on Shabbos and conduct a great deal of business without transgressing a single Biblical prohibition. However, the prophet Isaiah says that this would defeat the entire purpose of Shabbos. Shabbos was given to us as a gift from G-d, to rejoice with Him, similar to a bride and groom on their wedding day. To this end, the prophet Isaiah describes some modes of behavior, which we could relate to, as being conducive, to making our “wedding day” as beautiful and memorable as possible. The Talmud elucidates the verse in Isaiah which is the source for these laws. In verse 58:13, Isaiah writes: You should honor the Shabbos by not being involved in routine, mundane matters. For example, on the Shabbos day a Jew should honor the Shabbos with beautiful clothes. He should not walk on Shabbos as quickly as he does during the week. He should not be involved in his business matters, nor should he speak on Shabbos about weekday matters. What should we be involved with? With lofty, eternal matters, purposeful, ethereal matters, profound, and meaningful matters, matters which will develop and deepen our relationship with our beloved G-d.
By keeping Shabbos in a meaningful way, it truly becomes a day with a spiritual energy that is even greater than the building of the Mishkan. It affords us the opportunity to build lives that allow G-d to rest comfortably “within them”.
Taste of Parasha
In this week’s Parasha, the Torah repeats the command to guard the Shabbos twice. The second time is in Chapter 31 verse 16, “And the Jews shall guard the Shabbos to make Shabbos, for all generations, a treaty forever.” The Or Hachaim Hakodosh expounds on this verse and learns from the repetition of these thoughts a number of lessons regarding Shabbos. He derives from the repetition in the Torah of the command to guard Shabbos that we are to look forward to Shabbos. The word “guard” was used in a similar way by Yaakov Avinu. It says that Yaakov “guarded the words” (of the dreams of Yosef). This can not mean that he guarded them in a literal sense, but that he looked forward to their fulfillment. Here too, the Torah is commanding us to have a joyous anticipation for Shabbos. It was the custom of our sages to constantly look for objects to buy in honor of Shabbos. From the words, “to make Shabbos”, the Or Hachayim Hakadosh derives that it is a Mitzvah to add onto Shabbos, by observing a few minutes before and after its set times, as the actual 24 hours of Shabbos are ordained by G-d and not up to us to “make”. Furthermore, the words “for all generations, a treaty forever”, teach us that there is a treaty, that G-d has made with the Jewish nation, that if they keep Shabbos, they are guaranteed a portion in the world to come: The only world that is eternal, “for all generations”.