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Shalom Shabbat

by Mrs. Rivkah Slonim


Library » Shabbat » A Day of Rest | Subscribe | What is RSS?


New friends are puzzled, even dismayed, when they hear about the way I observe the Shabbat. They are surprised to learn that I do not write, flip an electric switch, use the telephone, cook or engage in a host of assorted everyday activities for twenty five hours each week, starting Friday night at sunset until Saturday at nightfall.

After that brief pocket of time, I am back on track, rushing along on that same fast-paced corporate treadmill. No one who sees me in the throes of my hectic life would ever believe I take such a prolonged hiatus, and on such a regular basis. “How can you afford to do that?” they ask. When they hear that my observance also precludes shopping, theatergoing and a wide gamut of recreational activities, they’ll raise an eyebrow and say, “Why would you want to do that?”

This reaction is not at all surprising. It comes from the natural assumption that to cease our everyday pursuits is not only difficult, but impossible. Think of the advertisements with the harried climber perched precariously on the mountaintop, logging in on a laptop to check for e-mail; or the sunbather on a remote island clinching a last-minute deal even as she professes to be on vacation.

“You shall work during the six days and do all your tasks. But Saturday is the Shabbat to G-d your Lord. Do not do anything that constitutes work.” (Exodus 20:8-10.)

Shabbat is rendered meaningful by the work days and the work days are elevated by Shabbat
Everyone seems to take this fourth of the Ten Commandments quite seriously. The part about working for six days, that is. But, of course, the whole commandment is relevant: Shabbat is rendered meaningful by the work days and the work days are elevated by Shabbat.

The Kabbala teaches that G-d spent six days creating a stage on which we are all the actors. He did this by contracting His energy and pulling back, thus creating an “empty place,” an arena we call “the world.” G-d remains hidden to allow us our freedom and the ability to choose. He’s hoping we will choose Tikkun Olam, perfecting the world. He’s hoping we will validate His plan by spending six days each week elevating this world, unmasking the G-dliness inherent in all matter and unleashing the Divine spark of energy that gives life to all things.

As we become submerged in our work, however, it becomes a struggle to remain above it. In the endless conflict between earth and spirit, sheer weight often wins out. It is easy to forget our source, our reason for being, our point of departure for this journey we call life. Shabbat is a potent reminder that takes us back to the beginning. It is a reunion with our inner selves; a return to the primal oneness our souls enjoyed with G-d before being sent to our present existence. It is a return to the perfection that existed after the six days of creation, before sin.

That I don’t cook, shop, or fax on Shabbat is a statement as much as it is a way of life. On Shabbat I will desist from harnessing this world’s energies and forces. I will suspend my efforts to master and transform. In mirroring G-d’s original pattern—ceasing after six days of invention and innovation—I will lift the veil and come face to face with my self and my G-d.

So think again, this time about the advertisements for glamorous vacation options to exotic, sun-drenched islands, and their promise of escape from the everyday din and commotion. Not only are you hundreds or thousands of miles from home, but the plug is pulled on the phone, fax and e-mail. What a relief! And that’s what I experience each week when on Friday, just as the sun is about to set, I disconnect myself from my everyday summonses. I light the Shabbat candles and something changes as I clear my mind and take a deep breath, knowing I am in a place where I could never have arrived on my own.


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(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.