TAKE THE DAY OFF
"Because in six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested and became refreshed" (Exodus 31:17).
"Because in six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested and became refreshed" (Exodus 31:17). "And remember that you were a slave in Egypt and Hashem your G-d took you out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, therefore Hashem commanded you to keep the Sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15).
It seems strange that there are two reasons given in the Torah to observe Shabbat. In this week's Torah portion, the Torah states that the reason for Shabbat is because Hashem created the world and rested on the seventh day. However, in Deuteronomy, the Torah states that we are commanded to keep Shabbat because Hashem took us out of Egypt. Even when we recite kiddush every Friday night, we declare, "it is a remembrance of the creation. . .and a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt." It makes sense to observe Shabbat to commemorate Hashem's resting on the seventh day, but what does Shabbat have to do with our exodus from Egypt?
The Slonimer Rebbe, a great Chassidic leader, tries to explain this duality. In addition to the obvious parallel of our resting on the seventh day just as Hashem did, each Shabbat we are completely renewed, just like a new creation. This explains why the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 118b) states that "anyone who observes Shabbat according to its laws, will be pardoned for all of his sins." He is pardoned because observing Shabbat and becoming a new creation has provided him with a new slate.
The Rambam, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, writes that the mitzvot of Shabbat and not worshipping idols are equal to all of the mitzvot in the Torah. The Jew who desecrates the Shabbat willingly is denying a basic principle of Judaism, that G-d created the world. According to the Chofetz Chaim, the foremost leader of Jewry at the turn of the century, Shabbat is the root of faith, to know that the world is constantly renewed by Hashem who originally created everything. The Slonimer Rebbe goes on to speak of the second aspect of Shabbat, a remembrance of the Exodus. Shabbat is an individual redemption every week to every person from their own specific situation. All week, the Jew is involved in making his livelihood and is somewhat removed from a spiritual mindset. On Shabbat, we are given a chance to come closer to Him. There is an extra spark of holiness in the world on Shabbat that we are given a chance to tap into.
The Torah writes, "six days you should do all of your work." (Exodus 20:9). Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, explains that the word "all" is teaching us that on Shabbat we should feel as if all of our work is completed. On Shabbat, we cannot worry about our work or our other mundane needs. We are completely freed from the boundaries of this world and brought to a higher level. When the Jews were taken out of Egypt, they were on a very low spiritual level. Hashem took them out, gave them the Torah, and made them into a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (ibid. 19:6). We are redeemed on Shabbat from our mundane week where we are on a lower level, and raised to a new level just like the Jews were when they were taken out of Egypt. Even the word in Hebrew for Egypt Mitzrayim is from the word metzar, border or restriction. All week we are trapped in a physical world and are set free on Shabbat, if we observe it correctly.
Mitchell Scher, who hails from Atlanta, is studying at Yeshivat Sha'arei Mevaseret Zion in Israel.
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