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THE PARTNER

by Steve Lerner    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Shabbat protested to Hashem saying, 'All the other days of the week have a partner, except for me.' Hashem replied, 'The Jewish people will be your partner'" (Midrash on Parshat Bereishit).

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"Shabbat protested to Hashem saying, 'All the other days of the week have a partner, except for me.' Hashem replied, 'The Jewish people will be your partner'" (Midrash on Parshat Bereishit).

Numerous references to Shabbat can be found throughout the Torah. Included in this week's portion is the well-known passage of "V'shamru - The Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat, to make the Shabbat an eternal covenant for their generations. . ." which is also the highlight of the Shabbat morning liturgy. As such, it is an especially opportune time to focus on this weekly holiday.

The above Midrash suggests a special relationship between the Jewish people and the day of Shabbat. What are the implications of the "complaint" filed by Shabbat which resulted in the formation of this unique association? What do the sages mean when they say that every other day of the week has a partner?

The Sfas Emes, a great 19th century Chassidic rabbi, addressed this subject by first explaining that each of the six days of creation was endowed with the ability to produce certain creations on its day of the week. The elements formed on each day were considered to be the counterparts or partners of that day. When Shabbat searched for its partner under these guidelines, it could not find a counterpart, since on Shabbat Hashem rested from further creative activity. Feeling deprived of its mate, Shabbat "complained" to the Creator.

This complaint of Shabbat is only valid if the search for a partner is limited to the physical world. Therefore, our search for its partner must be broadened to include entities of a different dimension. Shabbat has its origin in a hidden spiritual world which is a part of Hashem's treasure house containing items of great sanctity and pure holiness. Shabbat belongs to that spiritual realm and provides us with a taste of the World to Come.

In order to find a suitable mate for Shabbat, we must find an entity which has a feature which also originates from the highest spiritual levels. This entity is the Jew, who contains a heavenly soul originating from Hashem's throne of glory. It is interesting to note that on Shabbat, the Jew receives an even more exalted level of his soul, called the neshamah yetairah. With this highly spiritual soul, the Jew is equipped to receive the spiritual bounty of Shabbat. The match has been found.

Both Shabbat and the Jewish people provide continuity for the world on a cosmic scale. Shabbat functions as the soul of creation. Originally, the world could only endure for six days. Shabbat provides purpose and meaning to the world, and serves as a source of energy for its continued existence. The Jewish people furnish another vital source of energy through their continuous study of the Torah. Hashem made a covenant with creation that it may exist only so long as the Torah is studied day and night.

Only a Jew has the privilege and responsibility of keeping the Shabbat. The Shabbat in return is the keeper of the Jew. Shabbat is called the foundation of our faith, the yesod ha'emunah. "It proclaims to the world the necessity of serving a higher purpose" (The Sabbath, Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld).

On Shabbat, the world and the Jew are reunited with their Creator in harmony. It is a day of spirituality filled with prayer and song, when even physical activities such as eating and sleeping are considered holy.

Now that we find ourselves as the soul mate of Shabbat, we have reason to reflect on the great responsibility of being a loyal and worthy counterpart to our most precious partner. Once a week we are graciously blessed with the honor of welcoming and experiencing a level of sanctity and holiness unparalleled in this world. Being a good partner requires a thorough knowledge of the laws of Shabbat and an appreciation of its holiness. The profound inner beauty of Shabbat is reserved for those who eagerly await its arrival and expend the effort to prepare for its abundant spiritual delight called oneg Shabbat.

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Steve Lerner writes from Atlanta.

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