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Chagim U'Zmanim - Shabbat One

By Dr. Meir Tamari

Raabi Chama commenced, ‘Take away the dross from the silver and then there will appear a vessel for the silversmith’ (Proverbs, 25:5). Said Rabbi Eliezer in the name of Rabbi Yaakov, ‘This is like a bath full of water in which there two spheres in motion but they could not be seen until the water was cleared. Then the motion of the two spheres could be clearly seen’. So too, the world was filled with Tohu va Vohu that obscured everything so that the work of creating the Heavens and the Earth could not be seen. Then the 6 days of creation were completed and the dross of Tohu va Vohu was cleared even as in the Midrash. Then the Creation of the vessels could clearly be seen, as it is written, ‘And then the Heavens and the Earth were completed ‘ ”. (Bereshit Rabbah, Section 10, 4).

All the 6 days of creation, the various things created were simply individual entities, each one separate from the next without anything to unite them. Then came the Shabbat and brought them all together. However, this was not merely a unity wherein each component preserves its identity. Rather, it was like a vessel, a complete new creation in which the components are no longer identifiable, unlike a collection of remnants. That is why the Torah on the Seventh Day, talks about vayechulu and veyechal; on that day, they became a klal. This is like the nefesh that gathers together all the different organs and transforms them into a complete living being, as it is written for Shabbat ’vayinafash’. Yet this is not clear. After all, Tohu va Vohu was replaced already at the beginning of Creation, so why does the Midrash tell us that this happened only on the seventh day? It was only on that day, through the Shabbat, that there was a nefesh chaya that could form a complete vessel of the world, only then was the Tohu va Vouh completely removed.

The whole world is like a vessel that is made of the merger of the year ie. time and nefesh, and so it is with each individual. The mind and heart of each one corresponds to heaven and earth; mind is the heavens and heart, the earth. Menuchat hanefesh [a tranquil and settled mind] is the composite of mind and heart, in which the mind enlightens the heart and the latter is the king over all the organs. In the absence of such a vessel, there is only Tohu va Vohu, that is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. So it written [Megillat Esther, 6:14],”And they hurried in confusion to take Haman”, and hurried confusion is the opposite of menuchat hanefesh.. Whereas Shabbat comes to teach us that we may know that Hashem is our source of holiness (Shmot, 31:13 ). In the same way as in the general Creation, Tohu va Vohu was eliminated with the coming of Shabbat, so it is with each individual. Only then the activities of the spheres, Heaven and Earth, are clearly revealed.

In this way we can understand the teaching of the Arie that the sin of Adam lay in his inability to wait in his zivug till the first Shabbat. Had he done so, then he would have had the knowledge of holiness, instead he had the knowledge of good and evil, a knowledge rooted in Tohu va Vohu.

Rashi queries that on the seventh day, the Torah tells us vayechal, He completed all His work; shall we say that He worked on that day? It was like a king who built a canopy and decorated it; all that was missing was the bride, till came Shabbat. So was the world when Shabbat was missing. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah, 11a) tells us that everything in the Creation was created with their separate mind. >From this we learn that all the components had the desire and the strength to expand, to become earthy and gross and to draw away from their source. Now the word chalah means to pine away in yearning-my soul pines for Hashem, calta nafsi. So the bride Shabbat gave strength and desire to return to the Source, to rise from below to on high. This was the opposite of the 6 days of Creation in which there was expansion and removal from the source, the desire and strength to descend from on high down to lowliness. As long as all Creation was expanding, growing and moving, the majesty and the purpose of the Creation were obscured and the glory of Heaven and Earth could not be seen. There was Tohu va Vohu, which was a defect as the World was distanced from its source. The advent of Shabbat uprooted Tohu va Vohu from the World, so that the glory of the Heavens and the Earth could be seen, like the two spheres in our midrash.

Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Project Genesis, Inc.

Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics ( in Jerusalem.



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