OnegShabbos "North West London's Weekly Torah and Opinion Sheets
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Shabbos is central to Torah and Jewish living. The week begins and ends with Shabbos an inspired beginning, a week of work and an inspired end to the week. From the holy to the ordinary to the holy again.
What is the message of this weekly cycle? What energies are being manifest in it that we should be using, riding? Why do we need a Shabbos every week whereas other festivals occur only yearly? There must be a most essential lesson for the neshamah in Shabbos which necessitates such close repetition.
There are many ideas in Shabbos, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point, the purpose of a process. The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated. It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed. Whenever the Torah mentioned Shabbos it first mentions six days of work the idea is that Shabbos occurs only after, because of, the work.
A process must have an end-point to give it meaning. If work never achieves a result, the work is foolish. If an inventor builds a machine which maintains itself fully fuels itself, oils itself, cleans itself that is clever; provided that the machine produces something useful. A machine whose only output is its own maintenance would be ridiculous.
The result justifies the work, the end-point justifies the process. The pleasure of the freedom and relaxation which accompany an end-point are the direct results of the satisfaction of knowing that the job has to be done. That is the real happiness, the happiness of achievement. Shabbos is wonderful if a person has a weeks work to show for that week then the relaxation is rich and full.
Shabbos is described as meeyn olam haba a small degree of the experience of the next world. There is an idea that all spiritual realities have at least one tangible counterpart in the world so that we can experience them: it would be too difficult to relate to the abstract if we could never have any direct experience of it. Sleep is a sixtieth of the death experience; a dream is a sixtieth of prophecy. Shabbos is a sixtieth of the experience of the next world.
Why specifically a sixtieth? What is unique about the proportion of one in sixty? One who has a sensitive ear will hear something very beautiful here. One in sixty is that proportion which is on the borderline of perception: in the laws of kashrut there is a general rule that forbidden mixtures of foods are in fact forbidden only if the admixture of the prohibited component comprises more than one part in sixty. If a drop of milk accidentally spills into a meat dish that
dish would not be forbidden if less than one part in sixty were milk the milk cannot be tasted in such dilution. The halachic borderline is set at that point where taste can be discerned.
The beautiful hint here is that Shabbos is one sixtieth of the intensity of olam haba it is on the borderline of taste: if one lives Shabbos correctly one tastes the next world. If not, one will not taste it at all.
How is the higher taste experienced? By desisting from work. Not work in the sense of exertion, that is a serious misconception of Shabbos. What is halted on Shabbos is melacha creative activity. Thirty-nine specific creative actions were needed to build the Mishkan in the desert; these mystically parallel the activities God performed to create the Universe the Mishkan is a microcosm, a model of the Universe. God rested from His creation, we rest from parallel creative actions. The week is built by engaging in those actions constructively, Shabbos is built by desisting from those very actions. The Mishkan represented the dimension of holiness in space, Shabbos is the dimension of holiness in time.
Shabbos rest is an opportunity for introspection. What have I achieved this week? How am I better, more aware, more sensitive? Where do I need to develop in particular? Stocktaking; facing up to oneself honestly. This itself is a faint reflection of the external facing up to oneself which is of the essence of the next world. The meditation of Shabbos is the meditation of being, not becoming. But from that awareness the next weeks becoming is generated. Shabbos ends with havdalah, the ceremony of distinguishing, the holy from the mundane. A profound lesson can be learned from havdalah which is part of the theme we have been studying. Shabbos exits, the week begins. There is a natural sense of let down, holiness has left, the lower state is experienced. This is why we smell spices at havdalah to revive the wilting soul. But a deep secret is revealed here: we take wine for havdalah! Wine is used when elevation occurs, as we have noted already. What is the meaning of this paradox?
The idea is as follows. Certainly the week begins with the sadness of sensing Shabbos fade. The relinquishing of holiness is palpable. We smell spices. But the weeks beginning means a new opportunity to build, to elevate our present status towards another Shabbos which will be higher than the last, which will reflect another week of work and growth added to all the previous ones! We take wine! This is called yeridah ltzorech aliya a descent for the purpose of elevation, a higher and greater elevation than before.
So in the cycle of Shabbos and the week we see an elevated beginning, a descent, a loss of that high level of holiness, but only for the purpose of work: a return to the dimension of the beginning, higher, more inspired, more sensitive; closer to that final Shabbos and better prepared.
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AShabbos: A Taste of the World to ComeRabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz JLE
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AEretz HaTzviRabbi Zvi TeichmanCongregation Ohel Moshe, Baltimore, MD
The Men in White CoatsHave you ever been privileged to be in the company of greatness?
No that long ago, I together with a group of fellow congregants had returned from a whirlwind tour of the Holy Land. In addition to the usual jet lag that tends to dampen the adrenalin high of a trip of this sort, there is also the inevitable
reality check that sets in. We were privileged to nourish our souls and spirits as we heard warm words of encouragement and guidance from the inspired Tolna Rebbe; HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, the venerable Rosh HaYeshiva of Kamintez Yeshiva in Yerushalayim; HaRav Asher Weiss, the brilliant Gaon, author and educator; Rabbi Motti Berger, the masterful presenter of Aish HaTorah fame, among many others.
We walked on the very mountains our ancestors in the time of the Patriarchs and the Prophets traversed, as our tour guide emotionally and dramatically read the appropriate verses suited to each historical site, vividly reenacting the thrilling moments of our remarkable history and destiny.
We alighted upon retrieved Jewish property, deep in the Moslem quarter that now houses a thriving Yeshiva that was literally dug out with the students own hands. It is ironically situated directly above the teeming Arab shuk right beneath our feet, and looks out upon the Temple Mount, directly opposite where the Holy of Holies stood. We cried over the anguish of the loss of our Temple but we laughed that the prophecy of return was panning out right before our eyes.
We visited the famed Zilberman Cheder where children happily attend school 364 days a year! We were blown away by the exuberance and joy these children displayed as they recited with the taamim, verses from Tanach effortlessly and mishnayos randomly. We also noticed a Down Syndrome child integrated comfortably into one of the classes, exhibiting the same joy his classmates displayed.
After observing this exalted level of spirituality one tends to feel so inconsequential and inferior. This feeling often leads to a sense of defeatism and subsequent apathy.
This pernicious force of self-doubt is called , Amalek, which is numerically equivalent to , the word for doubt, 240. Just as that hateful nation cast doubt in our hearts by attacking us while we were riding a high wave of enthusiasm after having just experienced the miracles at the Splitting of the Sea, this tiny worm of self-doubt creeps slowly into our hearts quashing any fleeting inspiration we may have ever attained.
How does one transform inspiration into purposeful action when our lives see so far removed from these spiritual giants?
At the end of our portion after the Torah concludes with the details of the Priestly vestments, we are told about the Seven Day Inauguration ritual that would conclude on the eighth day with the consecration of Aharon and his sons as Kohanim to serve exclusively in the Tabernacle and Temple.
Strangely though, we are taught that during these Seven Days of Inauguration only Moshe served and only upon the eighth day did Aharon assume his full role. Additionally we are told that each day Moshe assembled and subsequently disassembled the Tabernacle. It was only on the eighth day that the Tabernacle was erected permanently.
The Talmud (: