Friday, February 18, 2011

Tisa 5632 First Ma'amar

In this week's parsha God commands us to keep the Shabbos, "אך את שבתותי תשמורו ... לדעת כי אני ה' מקדשכם/Only keep My Shabbosim to know that I am God Who sanctifies you." (Shmos 31:13) and a few pesukim later, "ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת לעשות את השבת לדורותם ברית עולם/The children of Israel will keep the Shabbos to make the Shabbos throughout their generations an eternal covenant." (Shmos 31:16)  The word שמור/keep connotes guardingWhat does the Torah mean when it tells us to "keep/guard" the ShabbosIt cannot be understood literally because it is the Shabbos that "keeps/guards" us, not the other way around.  

In order to understand how we "guard" Shabbos, the Sfas Emes teaches us a deeper understanding of what Shabbos is.  The Sfas Emes explains elsewhere[1] that Shabbos can be defined as a state of Godly revelation.  This state occurs naturally on the day that we call Shabbos.  However, it is not bound only to that day.  In fact, Godliness permeates the Creation.  So, we can say that an aspect of Shabbos permeates the Creation.  We are not generally aware of this because it is hidden.  On Shabbos it is more revealed.

This hidden Godliness is alluded to by the word את in the pasuk, "את שבתותי תשמורו/Keep My Shabbosim."  This is because Chazal in many places understand the word את to include things that are subordinate to the main object of the pasuk.[2]  The main object of this pasuk is Shabbos.  The word את includes that aspect of Shabbos that is hidden in the Creation.  

It is this hidden holiness that the Torah enjoins us to guard.  How?  Our mission is to recognize and reveal the Godliness that is in everything.  Not only is this Godliness inherent in everything, it is the motive force within our very actions.  Our activities, although physical, have a spiritual component.  In fact, the spiritual component of our actions is really the main thing.  What is this spiritual component?  Everything that we do either brings us closer to God or distances us from Him.  Many times an action is neutral and it is our intent that makes all the difference.  Do we eat solely for the physical pleasure or do we eat to live in order to perform God's mitzvos?  The former hides the spiritual.  The latter reveals it.

The Sfas Emes teaches that when the purpose of our actions is to satisfy the will of God, we are acting for the sake of Shabbos which is the same as saying for the sake of revealing the hidden Godliness within our actions.  This is the meaning of the pasuk, "לעשות את השבת/to make the Shabbos."  Everything we do should be for the purpose of reaching that state of revelation that is called Shabbos.  In this way we "guard" Shabbos, keeping it vibrant within the Creation.

We learn this concept also from the word אך in the pasuk, "אך את שבתותי תשמורו/Only keep My Shabbosim."  Chazal[3] teach us that אך/Only connotes exclusion.  For example we find, the word אַךְ/only regarding purifying vessels that we receive from non-Jews, “אַךְ אֶת־הַזָּהָב וְאֶת־הַכָּסֶף .../only the gold and silver …” (Bamidbar 31:22)  From the word אַךְ/only we learn that the gold must be pure.  It must not have any rust on it.  אַךְ/Only tells us that only unsoiled gold can be purified.

So too, the "אך/only" in "אך את שבתותי תשמורו/Only keep My Shabbosim" teaches us that we should see through the physical that hides the spiritual that is inherent in our actions and in everything.  When we do this, we will see holiness everywhere.

Chazal[4] teach us that God considers Shabbos His gift to us.  What is the gift?  If Shabbos is simply a cessation from work, then there is nothing that is being given.  The Sfas Emes explains that the gift is the ability to connect to the aspect of Shabbos that is within everything.  This connection is alluded to by the words at the end of the pasuk, "... לדעת כי אני ה' .../… to know that I am God …"  דעת/Knowledge, in the Torah connotes attachment, connection.

[1] Teitzei 5631 First Ma'amar
[2] Viz. Pesachim 22b, Rebbi Akiva teaches us that that we should be in awe of Torah scholars.  He learns this from the word את in the pasuk, "את ה' א-להיך תירא/Fear God, your Lord."
[3] Yalkut Shimoni 1:785
[4] Shabbos 10b

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