Dedicated in Honor of Our Children and Grandchildren
and Le’ilui Nishmat Our Son, Eliyahu Ben Rachel A’h
By Edmund and Rochelle Rahmey
In light of the current situation, there is a story that we wanted to share with you. Two brothers, the famed Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk and Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, often wandered about together, posing as simple beggars. They would mingle with the masses, listening, teaching, and helping whomever and whenever they could.
Once, while they were traveling with a group of drifters, members of the group were accused of being thieves, resulting in the entire bunch being thrown into jail. Confident of their innocence and eventual release, the two rabbis sat quietly. As the afternoon progressed, Rabbi Elimelech stood up to prepare himself to pray minha.
“What are you doing?” his brother asked. “I'm getting ready for minha,” said Rabbi Elimelech. Rabbi Zushe pointed at the pail in the corner of the room. “But it’s forbidden to pray in this cell, because that pail makes the room unfit for prayer.” Dejected, the holy Rabbi Elimelech sat down.
Soon after, Rabbi Elimelech began to cry. “Why are you crying? Is it because you are unable to pray?” asked Rabbi Zushe. Reb Elimelech nodded.
“But why weep?” continued Rabbi Zushe. “Don't you know that the same G-d who commanded you to pray also commanded you not to pray when the room is unfit for prayer? Be happy that G-d has afforded you the opportunity to obey His law at this time, no matter what it is.” This thought banished the feelings of dejection from the Rabbi’s heart and mind. Rabbi Elimelech took his brother's arm and began to dance from joy as a result of performing the mitzvah of not praying in an inappropriate place.
The guards heard the commotion and came running. Witnessing the two brothers dancing, the guards asked the other prisoners what had happened. “We have no idea!” they answered, mystified. “Those Jews were discussing the pail in the corner, when all of a sudden they came to some happy conclusion and began to dance.” The guards sneered. “They're happy because of the pail, are they? We'll show them!” They promptly removed the pail from the cell!
As Jews, we need to know that refraining from a Jewish practice such as attending shul because of a danger to life and health is as much a mitzvah as engaging in those practices under normal circumstances. We need to joyously thank G-d for allowing us to fulfill his Holy Will, whatever it is. And, perhaps, in merit of that joy, He might just take this terrible virus (the pail) away.
“Dinah d'malchuta dinah—the law of the land is the law.” Our beloved community rabbis are encouraging us to stay strong in this difficult time. When the government mandates that shuls or schools need to close or be limited to 50 people in a building, it is imperative we listen to the law of the land. We must continue to learn at home or in smaller groups while following the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) guidelines.
The Arizal writes, “When there is a crisis (like a famine or plague) in a city, it can’t hit anyone unless the person has a fear. For the person who strengthens his heart, completely relies on Hashem, and uses that reliance to overcome fear, there is nothing in existence that will be strong enough to get him.” Keep calm, continue to wash hands with soap, and maintain distance from vulnerable people like the older generation or those with preexisting medical issues. But do not fear, and be sure to rely on Hashem in trying times.
In last week’s parasha, before the sin of the golden calf, Hashem spoke to B’nei Yisrael about the importance of Shabbat. This teaches us that violating Shabbat is equal to the sin of the golden calf.
This week’s Parashat Vayakhel opens with, “And Moshe gathered the people of B’nei Yisrael and said to them, ‘These are the things that Hashem commanded... On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem!’” We see that the Torah brings up Shabbat again, but this time it’s discussed prior to the construction of the Mishkan. Rashi explains that this is to inform the nation of Shabbat’s magnitude, that even building the Mishkan cannot take precedence over Shabbat.
Repairing the Sin of the Golden Calf
The Or HaHayyim explains that idol worship constitutes a repudiation of all 613 mitzvot. Therefore, for B’nei Yisrael’s teshuvah for the golden calf to be complete, and for them to merit the Mishkan in their lifetime, they had to once again accept all the mitzvot upon themselves. Shabbat is equivalent to the entire Torah. Hashem repeated the mitzvah of Shabbat to give B’nei Yisrael the means to accept all 613 mitzvot.
The Or HaHayyim continues and says that the first passuk ends with… “These are the things that Hashem commanded, to do them,” which 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!
Hashem’s Hidden Treasure
If you would ask any wealthy man today where he keeps his most treasured possessions, he might tell you that he has his precious jewels in his safe. Another will say that he has his coin or stamp collection in his safety deposit box in the bank, along with his cash, and yet another will say that his priceless art collection is hidden safely in his vault. There’s an amazing Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (10b) that says, “Hashem said to Moshe... ‘I have a wonderful gift in My treasure house and its name is Shabbat. I wish to give this precious gift to the Jewish people; go and inform them!’”
Hashem is telling us that He has a special treasure that He has hidden away and wants to give it to us, the Jewish people. How can we even try to compare the treasures of humans, like jewels, coins, and works of art to the magnificent gift of Shabbat that Hashem kept in His treasure house and gave to us at Har Sinai? It’s impossible. So why don’t we treasure the gift of Shabbat that Hashem gave us as we would any other earthly riches?
The answer is that we don’t understand the magnitude of the gift of Shabbat, so we take it for granted and we don’t treat it as we should. We must understand that the degree to which we elevate the Shabbat spiritually is the same level of beracha that we will receive from Hashem!
Shabbat in Vayakhel
The Arizal says the reason that Shabbat comes right after the episode of the golden calf is because when B’nei Yisrael sinned with the golden calf, they lost the crowns they received when they had accepted the Torah with the words naaseh ve’nishmah. Those crowns brought so much beracha for health and prosperity. If we keep the Shabbat in the proper way, we will merit to get some of those crowns back!
Another Gemara in Masechet Betza (16a) says that, “Hashem placed an additional soul in all of us on Erev Shabbat and it’s taken away from us when the Shabbat ends.” In Masechet Shabbat (118a) it says that “Those who delight in the Shabbat are given a boundless inheritance which will come in Olam Habbah, but will reap the benefits of that gift in Olam Hazeh as well.”
In the Torah it says, “On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem! Whoever does work on it shall be put to death. You shall light no fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day (35:2-).” The Shabbat laws were already mentioned in greater detail in last week’s parasha (31:12-17). The repetition this week, at the beginning of Vayakhel, seems totally redundant. Why is it necessary to begin the section dealing with donating money to the Mishkan with this brief preamble about Shabbat?
Many commentaries deal with this question. Rav Naiman notes in his Sefer Darkei Mussar a peculiarity in the expression “Sheshet yamim taaseh melacha,” which literally means “six days WORK SHALL BE DONE.” A more common expression, as we indeed find elsewhere in the Torah, is “Sheshet yamim taaseh melachtecha” which means “For six days YOU SHALL DO YOUR WORK.” It is peculiar to use the passive form of the verb for doing work. The Darkei Mussar suggests that by use of this expression, the Torah is teaching us a fundamental rule for anyone who is engaged in earning a livelihood. The amount of money a person makes is NOT commensurate with the amount of effort he puts into his job.
A person is indeed required to make an effort to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “maan” from heaven will be disappointed! However, it is flawed to make the equation that “The more work I do the more money I will make.” It does not work like that.
The Almighty decides what each of us should earn. We can exhaust ourselves in our professions and either we will not succeed in earning as much as we feel we should earn or we perhaps will earn all that money and then lose it due to unforeseen expenses or poor investments, or a variety of other “unforeseen circumstances.” On the other hand, one can exert the right amount of effort and the Almighty may bless the actions of his hands to earn large sums of money, far greater than others who work much harder.
This is a fundamental belief in our religion and it really is what Shabbat observance is all about. Common wisdom is, “Of course if one works seven days a week, he will make more money than if he works six days a week.” And yet, the Torah commands us to work only six days. If the Almighty wants to bestow upon us a certain degree of financial success, he will bestow it to us whether we expend six days of effort to earn it or we expend seven days of effort to earn it.
I have a friend who was always Shomer Shabbat, but his store was opened for business through a non-Jew on Shabbat. When he was getting married, he decided that he would take the next and most difficult step to completely close his store on Shabbat and all the hagim. He chose this even though he was in a very busy shopping area and all the other stores were open on Shabbat. As he made his calculation of the days he would be closing his store, it added up to over 60 days of business that he would be missing. But his decision was final, and he would stick to it! At the end of the first year, he was astonished to see that not only did he do the same business as when he was opened all those extra days, he was pleasantly shocked to see that he actually doubled his business from the previous year while not being opened all those days! Hashem had blessed him for passing this test!
“For six days work SHALL BE DONE.” The work must be done, but one should not think “You shall do work.” The “you” is not what makes the money, it is the “He” (Hashem) allows “you” to earn a living.
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 was kept throughout the generations is the secret that preserved the Jewish 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 see the fruits of our Shabbat berachot through the Shabbatot that we enjoy with our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren! May we all stay safe and healthy and have an easy time ahead of us in the coming weeks and years! Amen!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
Do we treasure Shabbat as much as we do our earthly possessions?
Considering current events, it is important to know that refraining from a Jewish practice such as attending shul because of a danger to life and health is as much a mitzvah as engaging in those practices under normal circumstances.
We must understand the magnitude of the gift of Shabbat, so we don’t take it for granted, because the degree to which we elevate the Shabbat spiritually is the same level of beracha that we will receive from Hashem!
A person is indeed required to make an effort to earn a living and support a family. One who does not make that effort and expects “maan” from heaven will be disappointed! However, it is flawed to make the equation that “The more work I do the more money I will make.” The Torah commands us to work only six days.
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
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