In last week’s Perashah, Hashem spoke to B'nei Yisrael about the importance of Shabbat prior to the sin of the Golden Calf. In this week’s Perashah, Perashat Vayekhel, the first words are: "And Moshe gathered the people of B'nei Yisrael and said to them, These are the things that Hashem commanded to do them. Six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem." Once again, we see that the Torah brings up Shabbat, but this time it is prior to the setting up of the Mishkan. Rashi explains that this is to inform the nation of the magnitude of Shabbat, and that even the building of the Mishkan cannot take precedence over Shabbat. The Or HaHayyim explains further that idol worship constitutes a repudiation of all 613 mitzvot, therefore for B'nei Yisrael's Teshuvah to be complete, and for them to merit the Mishkan in their midst, the community had to accept upon itself once again all of the Mitzvot. Shabbat is reckoned as equivalent to the entire Torah, so by reiterating the Mitzvah of Shabbat at this point, Hashem gave B'nei Yisrael the means to accept all 613 Mitzvot. The Or HaHayyim goes on to explain that the first Pasuk ends with "These are the things that Hashem commanded, to do them," or literally, “to make them.” This can also be interpreted as "to repair them", because the commandment of Shabbat was a means to repair the damage of the sin of the Golden Calf!
Ask any wealthy man where he puts his most treasured possessions for safekeeping. One will tell you that he has his precious jewels in his safe. Another will say that he has his magnificent coin or stamp collection in his safety deposit box and his cash at the bank, and yet another wealthy man will say that his priceless art collection is hidden safely in his vault! There's an amazing Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (10b), that says: "I am Hashem, who made you Holy. Hashem said to Moshe, I have a wonderful gift in my treasure house and Shabbat is its name, and I wish to give it to the Jewish people. Go and inform them!"
If Hashem is telling us that He has a treasure that He has hidden away and wants to give it to us, the Jewish people, how can we even begin to compare a gift from Hashem to the treasures of humans like jewels, coins and famous works of art? Those things cannot begin to match up to the "tremendous gift of Shabbat that Hashem keeps in His treasure house that He gave to the Jewish people at Har Sinai." Therefore, why don't we treasure the gift of Shabbat that Hashem gave us as we would any other earthly treasures, like money, jewels and art, etc.? The answer is that we don't understand the full magnitude of this gift of Shabbat, so we continue to take it for granted, and we don't treat it as we should. We must understand that the way we elevate our Shabbat spiritually is equivalent to the same level of Berachah that we will receive from Hashem!
Another Gemara in Masechet Betza (16a) says that "Hashem placed an additional soul in all of us on Erev Shabbat and it is taken away from us when the Shabbat ends." In Masechet Shabbat (118a) it says: "Those who delight in the Shabbat are given a boundless inheritance which will come to us in Olam Habba, but we will reap the benefits of that gift in Olam Hazeh as well." The following story is an inspiration for Shabbat from the book, Touched by a Story, by Rabbi Yechiel Spero. The story tells of a man named Moshe Goldman who came to America with his family from Europe in the early 1900's, looking for a better life. He was told it would difficult for him from a religious point of view, as most businesses were open on Shabbat. Nevertheless, he made a commitment to stay loyal to Shabbat no matter what. When he told his first boss that he wouldn't be coming in on Saturday, he was given a pink slip. This pattern continued week after week. Moshe had a very difficult time earning a living, but his commitment to Shabbat was unwavering.
One day, Moshe came home to his Lower East Side apartment, crushed by the burden of another futile job interview, to find an eviction notice lying on the floor. He was more than three months behind with the rent. Moshe pleaded with his landlord, Mr. Wells, for an extension. However, the landlord needed the money, and there was someone else willing to rent the apartment. Mr. Wells was compassionate, however, and he allowed the Goldman family to remain in the building. They would have to move into the dark, damp cellar. It was free, so they took it. Their new "apartment" was actually the building's coal room. Thick black soot permeated the entire room.
One day, a wealthy businessman, Mark Bookman, was driving through that neighborhood and was intrigued to see two boys with black faces wearing kipas. He instructed his driver to pull over. Upon further examination, he discovered that they were two Jewish boys who were covered in black soot. He inquired about the soot, and the boys described their heartbreaking living conditions.
Mr. Bookman then asked the boys to show him where they lived, and he followed them to their apartment. Their mother, Mrs. Goldman, came to the door and saw this distinguished guest. She was completely embarrassed. Mr. Bookman, seeing the pitiful situation, was overcome with compassion and wrote them a check for $5000, which in those days, was an enormous amount of money. It was enough to support an entire family for over a year.
As she thanked the man, Mrs. Goldman was overcome with joy; this was the answer to all of her Tefilot. When her husband, Moshe, returned, she told him the good news. He said, "We can't accept the money!" "Why not?" asked his wife. "He really wants to give it to us." "I know Mark Bookman," said Moshe, "He desecrates Shabbat. His business continues to operate on Shabbat, and Jews work there. We didn't sacrifice for the last two years to observe Shabbat only to be rescued financially by someone who desecrates it."
Early the next morning, Moshe went to Mr. Bookman's sweater factory to return the check. He was extremely grateful for the gesture, but he said that he couldn't accept it, and he told him why. That night, Mr. Bookman came home looking very disturbed. His wife asked what was wrong. "I can't believe he didn't take the money," he told her, as he began to describe the events that took place.
Then he became teary eyed and said, "We used to be like that. Don't you remember? We also treasured Shabbat, until one week, when business was so awful, and we were short on money, we said, we're going to leave the store open, just this one time, on Shabbat." Tears streaked down his cheeks as he recalled that day ten years ago. "I want that passion back," he said. "I want to be a committed Jew also." Right then and there, they accepted upon themselves to be Shomer Shabbat again. That Friday, an hour before sunset, Mr. Bookman entered his factory and proudly told all the workers, the factory would be closing for Shabbat. When he arrived home on Friday afternoon and watched his wife lighting the Shabbat candles for the first time in ten years, he felt like he returned home from a very long journey.
The next week, he went back to Moshe Goldman and offered him the check again. This time, he explained how inspired he was by his loyalty to Shabbat, and that he had resolved to keep it from now on. Moshe was relieved of his financial troubles, and Mr. Bookman has religious grandchildren to this very day.
There's a famous saying that goes: "As much as the Jews kept Shabbat, the Shabbat kept the Jews!" The Shabbat that we keep today and that we kept throughout the generations is the secret that has kept the Jewish people alive as a great everlasting nation until this very day.
May we all learn to appreciate the Shabbat and keep it to the highest standards that we possibly can because it is the true source of all our Berachot. May we also be able to see the rewards and fruits of our Shabbat Berachot through the Shabbatot we enjoy with our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren! Amen!
Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam Moshe Ben Mazal