Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar 5761 - March 21, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Soul Restoring

by L. Jungerman

"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 him.

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."

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.

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