it’s easy if you try
delivered, Saturday December 25th 2010
the Conservative Synagogue
Today is the holiest of days –
Yesterday evening, it was as if all of creation was silent
And today is a day of good will to man and peace on earth
It is a day of imagining… a day of peace.
Leading up to this day, we were all busy
The holiday spirit has crept up on us all… for even the procrastinators amongst us…by Thursday or Friday we had all finished our shopping
Preparing our homes and our house of worship
Saving our money, saving the best for our holiday meals
Something new for our spouse
A new toy for our children
The cleanest table cloth, candles to light up the winter night..
Those amongst us who are blessed with bounty made sure that those less fortunate would have food and heat for the day
We welcome family, guests and even angels into our homes at the outset
And those of us who were lucky, woke up this morning, while the house was still and quiet and smelt the unmistakable aroma of the holy day food cooking over night.
As we made our way to join the community in prayer this morning, not a store was open…
It was as if the hustle and bustle, the give and take, the buy and sell of the market and the world was on hold
As if we lived in a world not defined by what we do, by what we own, by what we buy..
But rather, by who we are
It’s as if we are not in this world… but in a magical.. utopian world to come
Hanukah is normally linked and compared to Christmas.. but it’s an unfortunate comparison. If we put our finger on the power of Christmas, especially Christmas in the American experience…. It is that it’s an IMAGINE holiday.. to take a phrase from John Lennon ob’m … It’s a day were we all play make believe and imagine what a world would be like without money, without struggle and without borders. It’s a day that we give significance to by our sharing the experience and preparing for the experience with a heightened sense of anticipation. As John said it: “It’s easy… if you try“
On Hanukah.. we imagine nothing. It’s a nice little holiday that commemorates a rebellion against foreign oppression and the rededication of our temple. In anticipation, we need prepare only a simple candelabra and set up a game.
Even Passover where our preparations and anticipation is extensive and we imagine ourselves as leaving Egypt… we don’t imagine… like any self respecting beauty queen… world peace!
No.. the sobering news is that we Jews don’t have an annual Imagine Holiday.
The good news is that we do have a weekly Imagine Holiday.. one that Jews have protected and one that has protected us and our dream of eternity… for thousands of years. Shabbat is a holy day that re-creates the soul of creation, the original light of creation, the tranquility of a world to come. It is a day we look forward to every week with heightened anticipation.. a day where the preparations for the day are intrinsic to it’s power as the penultimate Imagine Holiday.
Let’s explore the sources together…
May the Merciful One grant (yanchilanu – as in an inheritance.. see below) us a world that shall be entirely Shabbat and eternal rest.
Page 768 in Sim Shalom
Menucah – Rest… Tranquility, serenity, peace, happiness, stillness, harmony, repose
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; Mey Menucha
“Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work (Exodus 20:8). Is it possible for a human being to do all his work in six days? Does not our work always remain incomplete? What the verse means to convey is: Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done. Another interpretation: Rest even from the thought of labor” Heschel, The Sabbath, page 32
Sim Shalom page 266 and 342
תְּהִלִּים Psalms Chapter 92
The Hidden light (O’hr HaGanuz) and the Extra Soul (Neshama Yesera) of Shabbat
…Still another opportunity was given to Adam to learn and appreciate the value of the Sabbath. The celestial light, whereby Adam could survey the world from end to end, should properly have been made to disappear immediately after his sin. But out of consideration for the Sabbath, God had let this light continue to shine, and the angels, at sundown on the sixth day, intoned a song of praise and thanksgiving to God, for the radiant light shining through the night. Only with the going out of the Sabbath day the celestial light ceased, to the consternation of Adam, who feared that the serpent would attack him in the dark. But God illumined his understanding, and he learned to rub two stones against each other and produce light for his needs.
The celestial light was but one of the seven precious gifts enjoyed by Adam before the fall and to be granted to man again only in the Messianic time. The Legends of the Jews, By Louis Ginzberg,  pp
Every seventh day a miracle comes to pass, the resurrection of the soul, of the soul of man and of the soul of all things. A medieval sage declares: The world which was created in six days was a world without a soul. It was on the seventh day that the world was given a soul. This is why it is said: “and on the seventh day He rested vayinnafash” (Exodus 31:17); nefesh means a soul.” Heschel The Sabbath page 83
VeShamru Sim Shalom p 358
And the Children of Israel observed the Sabbath,
to make the Sabbath for their generations an eternal covenant.
Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever,
Not an eternal sign.. but a sign (token) of eternity (Heschel)
K’dushat Hayom (R’tzeih Vim’nuchateinu) Sim Shalom p358
Let us inherit thy holy Sabbath is a reference to the world to come/eternity… since we already have the earthly Sabbath.. See heschel The Sabbath VIII note 8
In the Zemirot – B’Kol Echad – Ma Yedidot – pp 21 – 24
To hear My favourite niggun for this go to: http://tinyurl.com/28uoba2
Shabbat is an inheritance to all Israel.. to Rich and poor
“Jacob’s Inheritance shall the Shabbat observer inherit, without borders; Wealthy and poor alike shall honor it, and shall thereby merit redemption”
Shabbat is a taste of the World –to-Come
“A foretast of the World to Come is the Shabbat day of contentment… Make our redemption flourish, that grief and sighs may flee – To indulge in delights – fatted fowl, quail and fish.”
The third meal generally takes place as the Shabbat sun is setting and the Shabbat joy is about to give way to the weekday, workaday frustrations and despair; it therefore always contains a note of sadness of the imminent departure of the Shabbat Queen. The story is told of a Hassidic Rebbe who would always share the third meal with his disciples and would always empathize with the beginnings of despondency that they would feel with the setting sun. The Rebbe would look up to God with yearning and beseeching: “Please tell me, please reveal to me, the secret. When will the Master Messiah come?” But, alas, there was never a divine response.
One Shabbat, however, during the third meal, the Rebbe’s eyes brightened and his face lit up. “I have the solution!” he shouted to his gathered disciples. “I know how to force the hand of God and bring down the Messiah! After all, the messianic period of redemption is known as the “day which is completely Shabbat” the period when Shabbat never ends. We will simply continue this third meal; we will never recite the closing Havdalah prayers. As long as we retain the Shabbat eternally, the Messiah will have to come!”
His disciples agreed that this was a marvelous idea. Outside the sun had set, the moon and stars were shining brightly, and everyone had begun their weekday chores. But at the Rebbe’s table it was still Shabbat. His disciples kept singing and even dancing. They had the secret; the Shabbat would never end. The Messiah would have to come.
But then, one by one, the wives of the disciples began entering the room. They called out to their husbands, some quietly, some insistently. The children needed to be put to bed, the cloths and dishes had to be washed, purchases had to be made for the coming week. It did not take long until the Rebbe was all alone, singing a solo Shabbat song. And then, even his own rebbetzin came in, wondering what had happened, and insisting that he recite Havdalah so that the work week could begin. Reluctantly, with tears streaming down his cheeks at the failure of his revolution, he recited Havdalah. ….
From Around the Family Table: A Comprehensive “Bencher” and Companion for Shabbat and Festival Meals and Other Family Occasions with insights and Commentary by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, 2005 Ohr Torah Stone and Urim Publications note on pg. 96
Anticipation…longing for the seventh day… Shamor
Judaism tries to foster the vision of a life as a pilgrimage to the seventh day; the longing for the Sabbath all days of the week which is a form of longing for the eternal Sabbath all the days of our lives. (The awareness of the spirit of the Sabbath is not restricted to one seventh of the week. The Ten Commandments are found in two versions: in the Book of Exodus and in the Book of Deuteronomy. In the first version the commandment of the Sabbath begins with the words: Remember [zahor] the seventh day, and in the second: Keep [shamor] the seventh day. Said a medieval sage: “Remember it always, wait for its arrival [shemor means also to wait eagerly]
… Wait, look forward to it like one who looks forward to meeting a person he loves.” [Al Nakawa, Menorat ha-Maor, III, 575]) Heschel The Sabbath X note 13
|Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shabbat, Chapter Thirty|
There are four [dimensions] to the [observance of] the Sabbath: two originating in the Torah, and two originating in the words of our Sages, which are given exposition by the Prophets. [The two dimensions originating] in the Torah are the commandments “Remember [the Sabbath day]” and “Observe [the Sabbath day].”
[The two dimensions] given exposition by the Prophets are honor and pleasure (ענג), as [Isaiah 58:13] states: “And you shall call the Sabbath ‘A delight, sanctified unto God and honored.’
If thou turn away thy foot because of the sabbath, from pursuing thy business on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, and the holy of the LORD honorable; and shalt honor it, not doing thy wonted ways, nor pursuing thy business, nor speaking thereof;
What is meant by honor? This refers to our Sages’ statement that it is a mitzvah for a person to wash his face, his hands, and his feet in hot water on Friday in honor of the Sabbath. He should wrap himself in tzitzit and sit with proper respect, waiting to receive the Sabbath as one goes out to greet a king.
The Sages of the former generations would gather their students together on Friday, wrap themselves [in fine robes] and say, “Come, let us go out and greet the Sabbath, the king.
Among the ways of honoring the Sabbath is wearing a clean garment. One’s Sabbath garments should not resemble one’s weekday clothes. A person who does not have a different garment for the Sabbath should allow his robe to hang low, (As is the fashion of the wealthy. (See Hilchot De’ot 5:9.) so that his [Sabbath] clothing will not resemble the clothes he wears during the week.
Ezra ordained that the people launder their clothes on Thursday as an expression of honor for the Sabbath.
In respect for the Sabbath, it is forbidden to plan a meal or a winefest for Friday.
[According to the letter of the law,] one may eat or drink until nightfall. Nevertheless, as an expression of honor for the Sabbath, a person should refrain from planning a meal for [mid]afternoon on, so that he will enter the Sabbath with an appetite.
A person should prepare his table on Friday, even if he is [to partake] only [of an amount of food] equivalent to the size of an olive. (i.e., even if the quantity of food the person eats is not great, he should prepare his table as if he is to partake of a distinguished meal.) Similarly, a person should prepare his table on Saturday night, even if he is [to partake] only [of an amount of food] equivalent to the size of an olive. [In this manner,] he shows his respect for the Sabbath when it enters and when it departs.
One should prepare one’s house while it is still day as an expression of respect for the Sabbath.(Note the Nimukei Maharai, which emphasizes that כבוד (“honor”) appears to refer to activities that are performed in preparation for the Sabbath, while ענג (“delight”) to the appreciation of pleasure on the Sabbath itself. Note, however, the Ramah’s gloss on the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 262:1). There the Ramah emphasizes that one should keep one’s table attractively set throughout the entire Sabbath, implying that although honoring the Sabbath begins with preparing for it on Friday, the mitzvah continues throughout the day.) There should be a lamp burning, a table prepared [with food] to eat, and a couch bedecked with spreads. All of these are expressions of honor for the Sabbath.
Even a very important person who is unaccustomed to buying items at the marketplace or to doing housework is required to perform tasks to prepare by himself for the Sabbath. This is an expression of his own personal honor.
The Sages of the former generations (The examples quoted by the Rambam are taken from the description (Shabbat 119a) of the manner in which certain of the leading Sages of Babylonia would prepare for the Sabbath.) [would involve themselves in such activities]: There was one who would cook, one who would salt meat, one would braid wicks, and one who would kindle the lamps. Others would go out and purchase food and beverages for the Sabbath, even though this was not their ordinary practice. The more one involves oneself in such activities, the more praiseworthy it is.
Halacha 7 – aka Running up Credit Card Debt and layaway for Shabbat
What is meant by [Sabbath] delight? This refers to our Sages’ statement that a person must prepare a particularly sumptuous dish and a pleasantly flavored beverage for the Sabbath. All of this must be done within the context of a person’s financial status.
The more one spends [both financially,] in expenses undertaken for the Sabbath and [in effort,] in the preparation of many good foods, the more praiseworthy it is. (One should not worry about the expense, for Beitzah 16a teaches that a person’s income is fixed at the beginning of the year, with the exception of the money that he spends to honor the Sabbath and the festivals. A person need not be concerned with the cost of “honoring the Sabbath,” since he will be recompensed for the expense by an increase in his earnings) If, however, this is not within one’s [financial] capacity, even if one merely stews food or the like in honor of the Sabbath, this is considered to be Sabbath delight.
One is not obligated to strain oneself
A person is obligated to eat three meals on the Sabbath: one in the evening, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. One should be extremely careful regarding these three meals, not to eat any less. Even a poor man who derives his livelihood from charity should eat three meals [on the Sabbath].
The Holiness of Time
The difference between Shabbat and any other “Imagine” holiday lies in the unique focus on the holiness of time that is the essence of the Jewish Shabbat.. as Abraham Joshua Heschel, famously wrote:
“Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn.” Heschel, The Sabbath page 8
“The Jewish Contribution to the idea of Love is the conception of the Love of the Sabbath, the love of a day, of spirit in the form of time” Heschel, The Sabbath page 16
But the concept of the holiness of time, is not the subject for a Shabbat sermon.. read the book!
Wishing you a Shabbat of Peace on Earth… a Shabbat of good will to man…. A Shabbat of loving-kindness… A Yom Shekulo Shabbat..in short ….. A Shabbat Shalom
5 responses to “Imagining Shabbat”
very interesting, keep it coming
looking forward to this week’s installment
you kept us feeling engaged on that Shabbat morning. kol ha kovod!
Kol hakavod. I have just discovered the site and finished the most recent article on Nachshon. The name was familiar to me and I had nagging feeling that it was more familiar to me for reasons I couldn’t remember. The discussion of the 3 Nachshon named battles was excellent. And coining it as adjective for a type of moment is brilliant. Upon finishing the article, I remembered that the Nachshon I know is the famous Israeli artist, Baruch Nachshon. I spent shabbas last year with him in Kiryat Arbeh, a short walk from Hebron. Some of you readers may also know his wife, Sarah, who is perhaps more famous than him, for helping to resettle Hebron after the ’67 war. Surely they live up to the Nachshon name. Do a mitzvah, buy one of his paintings. The copies are inexpensive and beautifu. You can check him out at http://www.nachshonart.com/.
Just came across this unrelated, but related… Merry Christmas From Jerusalem article in the Atlantic… http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/12/merry-christmas-from-jerusalem/68536/