By Nosson Chayim Leff
Sfas Emes, Zechuso Tagein Aleinu, Mishpatim 5631 (II)
The Sfas Emes is working here with the following text (Shemos (23:20-
21): "Hi'nei ano'chi sholei'ach mal'ach le'faneh'cha lish'morcha ...
hi'sha'mer mi'pahnav, al tah'mehr bo ... " (ArtScroll: "Behold! I send an
angel before you to protect you ... do not rebel against him ... ")
This ma'amar is basically the Sfas Emes's analysis of that pasuk. His
analysis focuses on the links and allusions that, to his fertile mind,
connect two words. One word is mal'ach" (ArtScroll: "angel"; more
generally, a messenger), i.e., an agent who is acting totally on behalf of
the one who charges him/her with his/her task. The other word
is: "mela'cha", -- mission or task. The context in which the word
me'la'cha often appears is the laws of Shabbos. On Shabbos,we may not do
mela'chos -- activities in which a person may engage during "yemei
ha'ma'aseh" -- the weekdays.
The Sfas Emes hastens to tell us that on those days, when we are engaged
in mela'chos, also contain kedusha (sanctity). The kedusha is hidden in
the very activities that we do during those six days of "asiya"(activity).
Thus, we should be aware that our doing melacha also enables us to be in
contact with HaShem. For, just as the mala'chim are sent to this world to
perform missions for HaShem, so too HaShem sent those activities to the
world to enable us to fulfill His will. We know that HaShem's Presence
permeates the world. The Sfas Emes explains that to match His
Omnipresence, HaShem has given us mitzvos in all areas of human activity.
Thus, when we are engaged in our weekday activities, we can still connect
with HaShem's Presence.
Because the material components of this world are a garment in which
HaShem has cloaked His will, the posuk cited above advises us to be
especially careful in our weekday activities. During the week, we can
relate to HaShem only via the mela'chos that we do with our asiya. By
contrast, the Sfas Emes points out, on Shabbos, we can interact with
HaShem directly. On Shabbos, HaShem's Presence is not cloaked with the
activities of ma'aseh. Accordingly, the Torah proceeds from our
interaction with the mal'ach (posuk 20, as quoted above) to our Avoda,
pasuk 25: 'Ve'avadetem es HaShem" ("And you shall serve Ha Shem").
The Sfas Emes applies this framework to explain a key feature of our
davening on Shabbos. During the week, a major portion of our prayer
consists of petitions for Divine help. The Sfas Emes notes that our
tefilos on Shabbos do not include such requests. Why so? The Sfas
Emes explains that our more intimate relationship with HaShem on Shabbos
obviates the need to petition Him then.
A final question. Why does our prayer on the weekdays spend so much
time asking HaShemto fulfill our requests? Clearly, the reason is not to
inform HaShem of our needs. He knows our needs better than we do. Rather
the purpose of our petitioning HaShem is to remind ourselves of our utter
dependence on Him. On Shabbos we can be mindful of our relationship with
HaShem even without our petitions.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff and Torah.org.