HaRav Moshe Meir Weiss

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Title: The Great Power and Beauty of Shabbos – Part One

by Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Apr 11, 2008

 In his Haggadah, the Skolya Rebbe, Shlit”a, relates a Zohar which teaches us that proper menuchas Shabbos, rest on Shabbos, can nullify even a Heavenly decree of death upon a person.  In a similar vein, the Taz on Shulchan Orech, siman 242, quotes the Gemora in Shabbos that states, “Kol ha-shomer Shabbos k’hilchasa, afilu oveid avodah zorah k’dor Enosh, mochalin lo – One who keeps Shabbos correctly, even if he is guilty of idol worship like the terrible generation of Enosh, he will receive forgiveness.”  The Taz wonders, ‘There are no free rides in Judaism.  If the idol worshipper did not repent, how could Shabbos help him?  If he did repent, why does he need the aid of the Shabbos?’  The Taz answers that the Shulchan Orech is certainly talking about someone who did do tshuvah for his sin of idol workshop.  Even so, for such a grievous sin, one should get terrible punishment.  However, if he keeps Shabbos correctly, the power of Shabbos will protect him from any stern retribution.


The 13th century Torah giant, Rav Yehudah haChosid, Zt”l, Zy”a, relates that in his town of Regensburg, there lived a very old man.  The people of the town were puzzled why this man merited such longevity.  He seemed to have no redeeming qualities; he was miserly, rude, unpleasant, and an all together very difficult person.  Rav Yehudah haChosid, in his Sefer Chassidim writes why he merited long life.  In honor of the Shabbos, he would light oil candles, spending extra money instead of the commonplace wax candles.  For that extra effort in honor of the holy Shabbos, he merited unusual longevity.  So, we see that it behooves us to understand, as much as possible, menuchas Shabbos so that we can enjoy its benefits and its rewards.


You might ask, ‘What’s so complicated about menuchas Shabbos?  Doesn’t it mean to desist from working?’  The answer is – a resounding NO.  First of all, the posuk states, “Vay’chal Elokim bayom hashevi,” that G-d finished the creation on the seventh day.  This is puzzling because we know that G-d completed the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  So what does He mean that He finished it on the seventh day?   Rashi explains that He completed Creation on the seventh day with the creation of rest.  As Rashi states, “Baasa Shabbos, baasa menucha – When Shabbos came, rest came into existence.”  Therefore, we see that menucha is a created substance – not merely the abstention from work.


Similarly, in the r’tzei prayer that we insert into bentching, we say, “Lishbos bo v’lanuach bo – To cease from work and to rest on the Shabbos.”  Since lishbos already refers to a cessation from labor, lanuach must refer to something else.  What does lanuach mean?  How do we quantify menuchas Shabbos?  We can get an important clue from a vital Rashi.  The posuk states, “L’maan yanuach shorcha va-chamorcha – In order that your ox and donkey also rest on Shabbos.”  Rashi elaborates:  Give your animals rest.  Let them graze in the field and pluck freely its herbs.  Rashi asks, Perhaps you could just lock your animal up in the stable and ensure in this way that your animal will not work on the Shabbos?  However, he concludes that this would not be menucha for them.  Rather, it would be a tzaar, a distress, for the ox and the donkey would go stir crazy if they were to be locked-up all day.  Thus, we see that Rashi defines menucha as contentment – and not merely the absence of work.


In yet another revealing Rashi on the verse, “Sheishes yomim taavod v’asisa kol melachtecha - Six days you should work and do all of your work,” Rashi explains when the Shabbos arrives it should be to you as if all of your work has been completed.  Therefore, although you have twenty messages that you haven’t even listened to yet, a dozen emails to answer, four irate clients to service, and your desk is piled a foot high, it is the job of Shabbos observers, when ushering in the Shabbos, to create an oasis of contentment and to imagine for the next twenty-four hours as if everything is all taken care of.


The Gemora in Masechtas Shabbos teaches us that for three sins people lost their wealth.  One of the three is ‘si’yer michsay’hu b’Shabbos.’  If they oversee their property on Shabbos – walking through their vineyards and their farms, to see what needs to be done after the Shabbos.  For this activity is the antithesis of the spirit and the aim of Shabbos which is to free us from any of these weekday worries.  As we say in the Kiddusha Rabbah on Shabbos afternoon, , “Im toshiv miShabbos raglecha, asos chafotsecha b’yom kodshi,” if a person withholds his feet from going on non-Shabbos pursuits, from attending to his own needs and from pursuing one’s normal pursuits, great reward is in store for the person.  Shabbos is certainly not the time to open up the newspaper to check the markets or the precious metal commodities.  If they go down, it would certainly mar your Shabbos spirit. However, even if they go up, such thoughts should not be crossing one’s mind during the Shabbos whatsoever.  Shabbos is meiein olam haba – an echo of the afterlife where there are no mundane material concerns.


In the merit of creating an aura and an ambiance of serenity on Shabbos, may hashem bless us with long life, good health and everything wonderful.


To be continued.

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(Sheldon Zeitlin transcribes Rabbi Weiss’ articles.  If you wish to receive Rabbi Weiss’ articles by email, please send a note to ZeitlinShelley@aol.com.)