Parshas Mishpatim: Remember the Sabbath Day

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Mishpatim, the grandeur of Matan Torah continues with a myriad of mitzvos, mostly bein adam l’chaveiro, given to the nation, which will form the foundation of Jewish society. 

Both in last week’s parsha, Yisro, and this week’s parsha, we are commanded regarding Shabbos.  The fourth of the Aseres Ha’Dibros declares: זָכוֹר אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, לְקַדְּשׁוֹ – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, for six days you shall work and perform all your labor, and the seventh day is a Sabbath to Hashem your G-d; you may not do any work, you and your son, your daughter, your maidservant, your animal, nor your stranger who is in your cities… (Shemos 20:8-11). 

And in this week’s parsha, Shabbos is reiterated, as we are commanded: שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲשֶׂה מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי תִּשְׁבֹּת–לְמַעַן יָנוּחַ, שׁוֹרְךָ וַחֲמֹרֶךָ, וְיִנָּפֵשׁ בֶּן-אֲמָתְךָ, וְהַגֵּר – Six days you may do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, in order that your ox and your donkey shall rest, and your maidservant’s son and the strangers shall be refreshed (23:12). 

R’ Soloveitchik teaches, “The mitzvah of זָכוֹר אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, לְקַדְּשׁוֹ, begins in effect on the first day of the week.  All week long, a person anticipates the Sabbath and yearns for it.  The philosophical idea that lies behind this halacha is the Jewish longing for kedusha (holiness).  The Jew finds himself daily in a mundane world, and he constantly yearns for kedusha.  Similarly, the halacha of tosefes Shabbos, of extending the Shabbos a few minutes before and after, expresses our eagerness to embrace it and our reluctance to part with it.  This emotional relationship to Shabbos is also reflected in the use of besamim during the recitation of havdala.  Rishonim explain its function in pragmatic terms: the departure of our neshama yeseirah (extra soul that we receive on Shabbos) creates a sensation of weakness, even faintness, in each Jew.  The besamim act as a stimulant to revive the Jew…

“Both Shabbos and Shemitta (7th Sabbatical year, Shemos 23:10-11 in this week’s parsha) are characterized by the Torah as ‘Shabbos’ (see Vayikra 25:6).  What is the common denominator?  Withdrawal.  We own nothing, neither our material acquisitions nor our creative talents.  We demonstrate our awareness of this by surrendering everything to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  Thus, Six days you may work and perform all your labor.  Whatever you accomplish during the six days is yours.  However, the seventh day is a Shabbos to Hashem; you shall perform no labor.  You must refrain from work and surrender everything to G-d…

“This, then, is the positive dimension of zachor that we implement on Shabbos itself.  By withdrawal from melacha, we surrender our very selves to G-d and thereby attain kedusha.  This constitutes the positive experience of Shabbos.  Tefilla and talmud Torah are two media that help us achieve this positive experience by withdrawal from melacha, of zachor on the day of Shabbos” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Shemos, p.176-177). 

Rabbi Meir Mazuz, a leading Sephardi rabbi, and head of Yeshivat Kissei Rachamim, pointed to Israeli musical sensation Omer Adam’s newfound Shabbat observance as the key to his success.

Omer Adam has become one of Israel’s top pop stars, with a recent concert of his selling 12,000 tickets in under 15 minutes. According to R’ Mazuz, the reason for his popularity was his refusal to perform at a music festival on Chanuka despite being offered 1 million shekels because he did not want to desecrate Shabbat.

“This Omer Adam, he usually gets a million shekels for every concert,” said Mazuz. “He agreed to perform, but then found out it was Shabbat. He automatically refused and told them that he observes Shabbat. He said that he would only perform if they would push his performance to after Shabbat.  Because of Omer Adam, they pushed off the entire festival to Saturday night. Now I see that he just sold out his latest concert in four minutes,” R’ Mazuz added.

Adam had made waves when it became known that he had refused to perform at the popular Festigal festival because it was scheduled to be on Shabbat. Despite event organizers doubling his salary, Adam reportedly said that “no amount of money will ever cause me to violate Shabbat.”

אָמַר רַבִּי לֵוִי, אִם מְשַׁמְּרִים יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת כָּרָאוּי אֲפִלּוּ יוֹם אֶחָד בֶּן דָּוִד בָּא, לָמָּה, שֶׁהִיא שְׁקוּלָה כְּנֶגֶד כָּל הַמִּצְווֹת

Rabbi Levi said: If Israel keeps the Shabbos appropriately, even for one day, Moshiach will come, for Shabbos is equal to all the mitzvos;

אָמַר לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, אִם תִּזְכּוּ לִשְׁמֹר שַׁבָּת מַעֲלֶה אֲנִי עֲלֵיכֶם כְּאִלּוּ שְׁמַרְתֶּם כָּל הַמִּצְווֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה, וְאִם חִלַּלְתֶּם אוֹתָהּ מַעֲלֶה אֲנִי עֲלֵיכֶם כְּאִלּוּ חִלַּלְתֶּם כָּל הַמִּצְווֹת

Hashem said to Israel: if you are worthy to keep Shabbos, I consider it as if you kept all the mitzvos in the Torah!  And if you desecrate the Shabbos, I consider it as if you desecrated all the mitzvos;

בְּעֵת שֶׁאָדָם שׁוֹמֵר אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת, גּוֹזֵר גְּזֵרָה וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְקַיְּמָהּ

At the time that a man keeps Shabbos, he can make a decree and Hashem will uphold it (Medrash Shemos Rabbah 25:12).

Let us appreciate the tremendous blessing and gift of each and every Shabbos as we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and in this merit, may we reap the boundless rewards that Shabbos brings.

As the old adage goes: It’s not that the Jew keeps Shabbos; it’s the Shabbos that keeps the Jew.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


1 Comment
  • Marla
    Posted at 07:56h, 01 February

    Beautifully said! Have a warm שבת.