Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shabbos HaGadol 5634 First Ma'amar + Practical Applications


Much has been written about the name of the Shabbos preceding Pesach – Shabbos HaGadol, the great Shabbos.  Why is it called the great Shabbos?

In order to answer this question, we need to understand what significance keeping Shabbos has for us.  Of course, keeping Shabbos is our testimony that God created the world.  However, in addition to this, keeping Shabbos has significance for each of us personally.  It is, after all, a day of rest.  At the very least, on Shabbos we do not “go to work”.  We stay home with our families.

A day of rest signifies that whoever is controlling our lives during the week, is not in control on Shabbos.  Shabbos, then, sets us free from the rule of flesh and blood.  At least for one day a week, we can subordinate ourselves to God.  On this level of keeping Shabbos, Chazal[1] tell us that even in Egypt, Moshe Rabbeinu requested and received permission from Pharaoh to grant the nation one day of rest per week from their backbreaking physical labor.  In addition to the welcome physical rest, for one day a week the nation was free from the rule of Pharaoh and was able to accept the rule of God.

The Zohar[2], however, mentions two levels of keeping Shabbos.  There is the level of those who are enslaved and the level of those who are not enslaved and are able to subordinate themselves to God during the week as well.  The significance of Shabbos for these people is that on Shabbos it takes less effort to experience God.  To these people, Shabbos signifies a day on which they are free from the distractions of weekday activities.  Spiritually as well, it is a day on which it is easier to experience God.  This is a much higher level of keeping Shabbos.

We first experienced this higher level of Shabbos as a nation on the Shabbos preceding the redemption.  Prior to this Shabbos Moshe Rabbeinu promised us that after the coming plague we would be leaving Egypt for good.  We finally left the servitude of Pharaoh and became subordinate to God alone.  We were thus able to experience the higher level of Shabbos.  In commemoration of the first time we experienced the higher level of Shabbos, we refer to the Shabbos before Pesach as the great Shabbos.

Practical Application

Although we are not slaves today in the literal sense, unfortunately, many of us are essentially slaves.  We accept being subordinate to our work, our employers, our … etc.  We thus experience only the first level of keeping Shabbos.  We are not free during the week.  We are free only on Shabbos.  Shabbos for us is simply a day of rest, albeit, a mental and emotional rest.  I’m not belittling Shabbos as a day of rest.  A day of rest is very important.  There were times, not long ago, when even this was difficult attain.

However, nowadays, very few are struggling because their employers require them to work on Shabbos.  Our struggle these days is to accept the yoke of Heaven during the week as well.  It is to realize that the one who pays us a check is really the One who is paying us the check. 

Many pay lip service to the concept that our parnassah comes from God, not from our employer, customers, etc.  However, truly internalizing the concept changes the way we approach our employer, business, customers, etc.  There is a certain confidence that comes from knowing that my employer is no more than God’s messenger with no autonomous power.  This mindset switch is key to experiencing the ol malchus shamayim during the week and even more so on Shabbos.  May we merit it!

And a chag kasher vesame’ach to all.

שנזכה לאכול מן הפסחים ומן הזבחים!


[1] Shmos R. 1:28
[2] Zohar Raya Mehimna 3:29b

3 comments:

Daniel said...

M.D.
Pearl and I had quite a discussion about this one this shabbos.

I know that it should not bother me what my boss does because he is just a pawn in HaShem's hands, but he still clearly has the power to fire me or otherwise make my life miserable.

For that matter, to consider that he is just a tool carrying out what HaShem wants, just serves to make it even more frightening and awesome. It makes him the conduit for feedback from HaShem.

My problem is that when things are not going well, should I consider that to be the feedback that is telling me to try harder or do something differently? Maybe it is just a test to see how I handle it. Maybe it is just an opportunity for me to learn some lesson. Or maybe it is just some negative thing that I have to go through because it is ultimately the best thing for me for some unknown reason.

Since I don't know what it is, then I don't know how to deal with it and that ends up being the cause of my anxiety.

For me to worry about it, means that I am only worrying about what my responsibility is in serving HaShem and if I am doing it correctly.

What do you think?

-Daniel

Moshe David Tokayer said...

Daniel,

Everything that happens to us is from Hashem. Your boss's power to make your life miserable or not is also from Hashem and whether he does or not is also from HaShem.

For that matter, to consider that he is just a tool carrying out what HaShem wants, just serves to make it even more frightening and awesome. It makes him the conduit for feedback from HaShem.

Why is this frightening and awesome? Would you rather that your boss be acting autonomously? That would be truly frightening. Your boss may or may not have your interests in mind. He may have an ulterior agenda which has nothing to do with you and you may just be a pawn in his hands!

HaShem, on the other hand, always has your best interests in mind. You know that you will receive from HaShem exactly what you need.

HaShem is sending us messages and feedback all the time. We are being guided whether we realize it or not. To understand what is going on and how we should act, the Sfas Emes and others teach us that we need to accept whatever it is that is happening as coming from HaShem and ask Him for understanding. The answers can come in a million different ways. It may be as simple as getting the idea to turn to a specific person for advice. The advice you receive is also from HaShem. The answer may come in the form of a flash of inspiration. It may come in the form of a new unexpected business or job opportunity.

The key is to turn to HaShem and tell Him that you understand that everything that happens to you is from Him (hisbatlus)and to ask Him for guidance.

There is very little in life over which we have control. This is a source of frustration and fear for many people. However, realizing that HaShem is running things is a source of encouragement.

Daniel said...

M.D.
I just wanted to explain one comment: I said:
For that matter, to consider that he is just a tool carrying out what HaShem wants, just serves to make it even more frightening and awesome. It makes him the conduit for feedback from HaShem.

And you replied:
Why is this frightening and awesome? Would you rather that your boss be acting autonomously? That would be truly frightening.

What I meant was that, if I am only dealing with a basar v'dam then it would not be so awesome. But to know that I am dealing with HaShaem, although indirectly, raises it to a different level.

I hear what you are saying and I will have to give it more thought. Knowing all of this does not always change how you feel - that takes a lot of work and concentration.

-Daniel