"Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there
shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to Hashem."
In the piyutim of the Yomim Noraim we depict our
paucity most graphically. "Man is founded from earth and to
earth does he return. He procures his bread with his very
soul." At the expense, the sacrifice of his very life.
Maran HaGaon R' Yechezkel Abramsky zt'l explains that
the reason man must devote his life to procuring his
physical needs is a direct result of the fact that he comes
from the earth. Man's body is constituted of that raw
material, the inanimate but very physical substance. From
where, then, can he draw the energy and propulsion which he
needs to invest in order to obtain his daily bread?
The answer is: at the expense of his lifeblood, his
nefesh, his spirit. It is his divine-given soul which
activates him, mobilizes him to work, which harnesses the
physical powers to enable him to acquire his sustenance.
Thus does the Torah describe the laborer who eagerly awaits
his wages, "For his soul hangs upon it."
As a result of this constant aspiration, the soul
experiences a gradual erosion, a wearing down, depletion.
This is why: "On the seventh day there shall be to you a
holy day, a Sabbath of rest to Hashem." Shabbos is a
spiritual gift through which man replenishes the spiritual
reserves of his soul which pines for its original home. She
is a daughter of Heaven. Shabbos serves as hashovas
aveidah, returning of lost property as it were, a
restoration to the soul of its supernal vigor after laboring
for six days in pursuit of daily bread, of the person's
diverting his life force from its natural spiritual
inclination to focus, instead, on mundane matters, such as
the pursuit of sustenance.
If, however, man puts his life in his palm, that is,
concentrates all of his energies to the matters at hand and
will ignore the way-station of Shabbos which was designed to
replenish his energy, to recharge his spiritual batteries,
then when he grows old and decelerates from his frenzied
headlong rush into life's battle, he will suddenly discover
that his soul is atrophied, dried up, its life force all
sucked out. It remains withered in pain and shame.
To what can this be compared, asks R' Yechezkel? To a man
traveling a long distance by car at great speed, without
realizing that this is taking a toll upon the motor and that
the fuel will soon be gone. Woe if it stalls in the middle
of desolation where no one can help him.
"And Hashem blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it."
Chazal say: "He blessed it through the very illumination
upon a person's face. He sanctified it with the light that
shines on a person's visage. For the light which a person
shows and sheds throughout the week is nothing compared to
its radiance on Shabbos." From where does this special
Shabbos luminescence originate? From only his spirit?
Replies HaRav Abramsky: The glory and ambience of a person
depends on his mood and frame of mind. A person's striving,
his longing and aspiration is evident from the glow of his
countenance. This is because the spirit dominates the flesh
and his emotions and thoughts are reflected and transmitted
through the senses.
Thus, the soul that toiled for the physical goal of bread
throughout the week returns to its source of spiritual
energy, to its stature of princeliness. And this is readily
noticeable through the facial radiance. As soon as a
person's thoughts are removed from the daily grind of
livelihood and he is free to turn upward and aspire, then he
acquires a different stature which commands respect. His
gaze becomes illuminated with a sublime light, as if a
candle were placed upon his head to shed its glow over
The radiance and aura which envelop Jews on Shabbos and is
expressed on their very faces, settles upon them when Queen
Shabbos spreads her wings with the setting weekday sun,
ushering in holiness. This holy halo is an eternal eruption
of the soul which seeks release and expression. This is the
selfsame spirit which struggled throughout the six days of
mortal endeavor, of "work shall be done," no longer subdued
and suppressed now that Shabbos is ushered in.
And if during the days of weekly activity the soul was
harnessed to foraging for its bread, by sacrificing itself,
benafsho yovi lachmo, laying its life down, on
Shabbos it can soar beyond the mundane and return to its
life source. Its rejoining with the spiritual source of
energy is reflected through a precious light that permeates
the entire body and shines forth through the fleshly casing
to illuminate the visage. "There is no comparison of a
person's expression on the weekday to his aura on
Shabbos is a gift that was bestowed quietly, in modesty, say
Chazal. Its concealed majesty appeals to the hidden soul.
Shabbos replenishes the soul. The spirit of calm and peace
and surcease that waft through the world on Shabbos is felt
only by those who observe the Shabbos properly. The soul
garners strength on Shabbos; it is spiritually nourished.
Shabbos uplifts the soul once again, through the boosting
neshomoh yeseira, and frees it from the shackles of
earthiness so that it can soar upward, homeward.
This fascinating scenario can be tangibly felt. "Behold that
Hashem gave you the Shabbos." It is visible, palpable. It
does not require imagination for the soul feels it. A
wonderful gift -- and Shabbos is its name.