SERENITY OF Shabbos*
Man in his unrelenting toil looks forward to the Shabbos day. Throughout the Six Days of Work he cannot stop his laborious efforts to provide for himself and his family. As the sun sets Friday afternoon in anticipation of the Shabbos Queen, he finally allows himself to relax, to prepare for the Divinely ordained day of rest. Week after week, he struggles pouring his heart and soul into the endeavor of making a living. When can a person find time for the true purpose of his heart and soul? When can a person find time for himself and for his family? Effort, struggle and toil – then Shabbos comes and brings freshness to his weary soul.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (The Hirsch Hagadda: Feldheim Publishers) paints a vivid and stirring description of the relationship of man and Shabbos. “The material world goes about its work without respite. Can one simply rest his hand, his head, and his soul and wipe away the sweat, smooth away the frown, and shake off the dust from the treadmill of life? …Then sent from Eden like the angel of G-d, Shabbos comes and approaches man: In the Name of G-d, Stop! …Have you no spirit, no heart, no soul assigned to your earthly existence wherewith to merit eternal life? …Do not deny your Heavenly soul – do not deny your G-d. Leave your work and come home with me.’
‘Now indeed man stands where he belongs – his bursting chest relaxes, his violent pulse subsides. Now he takes off time for himself and casts off his burdens. He wipes his sweat-covered brow, and dusts off his body. The frown disappears, he raises his eyes and looks about – indeed, he smiles – and now he can hear the voice calling from the Garden of Eden.’
‘lt beckons him to his wife’s side, within the circle of his children. The light radiating from within him doubles the illumination of the Shabbos candles; The peace reposing in him adds spice to the Shabbos meal. Worry, tears, sorrow and sighing – all are banished from even the poorest of Jewish dwellings. Consequently, Shabbos is a delight to him.’
‘The treasures of Paradise that Shabbos supplies from its stores – the peace and relaxation, the fullness of joy in the presence of G-d – are provided for in abundance and equality. Give mankind Shabbos and one has broken his chains and healed his wounds.” Hence, Shabbos is a day of joy for one and all.
‘And it was evening and morning, the sixth day.” Chazal teach us that the addition of the extra ‘ה‘, the definite article, refers to a particular “sixth day”, the sixth of Sivan, the day that the Torah was given, and also alludes to the Five Books of the Torah. After man – the purpose of creation – was formed, the Torah states: “Thus the heaven and the earth were completed.”
The Rema in Shulchan Aruch rules that ‘workers and laymen that do not occupy themselves during the week with the study of the Torah should involve themselves on Shabbos even more than a talmid Chochom, that is occupied the whole week with studying Torah’. The Mishnah Berurah cites a Medrash that relates that the Torah came before G-d and said: When the Bnei Yisrael will enter Eretz Yisrael, all will be busy with their vineyards and fields. What will become of me?’. Hashem replied, “I have a companion which l will give you. Shabbos is its name. For on Shabbos they are not engaged in work and will occupy themselves with you.” Shabbos and Torah are the chosson and kallah. Shabbos and Torah are inseparable.
*This is an adaptation of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s exposition on the great benefit of the gift of the Shabbos as explained in The Hirsch Haggadah.
The essay can be read in its entirety here.