The Holiness of Shabbat
Volume 19, No. 21
17 Adar I 5765
February 26, 2005
Eli, Rachel Adina and Daniel Avraham Rutstein
in honor of the birthday of wife and mother Galit
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Nidah 70
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Bava Metzia 33
We read in our parashah (31:14-15): "You shall observe the Sabbath, for it
is holy to you. . . For six days, work may be done. . ." R' Meir Simcha
Hakohen z"l (1843-1926; rabbi of Dvinsk, Latvia; author of Ohr Sameach)
notes that the prohibition against working on Shabbat is mentioned several
times in the Torah. In some verses (for example Shmot 20:9), the Torah
uses the active voice, "Six days shall you work." In other verses, the
Torah uses the passive voice, as in the above verse from our parashah.
The passive voice also is used in next week's parashah (35:2): "On six
days, work may be done." Why?
He answers: In the sections in which the Torah uses the passive
voice, the Torah also refers to the holiness of Shabbat. For example,
our parashah says, "You shall observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to
you. . . For six days, work may be done." Similarly, we read in next
week's parashah, "On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day
shall be holy for you." In contrast, the verses that use the active
voice do not refer to the holiness of Shabbat.
What does this teach? R' Meir Simcha explains: Our Sages teach,
"When you do the Will of Hashem, your work will be done by others.
When you do not do the Will of Hashem, you will have to do your own
work." If we infuse the Shabbat with holiness, that holiness will
rub-off on us, helping us do the Will of Hashem all week long. Then
our work will be done passively, i.e., by others. However, when our
Shabbat is not infused with holiness, then we will have to do our own
work actively. (Meshech Chochmah)
"Between Me and Bnei Yisrael it is a sign forever that in a
six-day period Hashem made heaven and earth, and on the
seventh day He rested and was refreshed." (31:17)
Making a play on the last word of this verse, our Sages derived
the existence of a Neshamah Yetairah--literally "extra soul"--that
enters man on Shabbat. What is this Neshamah Yetairah?
R' Moshe Shick z"l (19th century rabbi of Huszt, Hungary)
explains: Ancient philosophers believed that a completely spiritual
Being could not have created our physical world. Rather, they
suggested, G-d created a world that was slightly less spiritual than
Himself; that world created the next world, and so on, until our world
Shabbat is our declaration that the ancient philosophers' belief
is false. We declare that G-d Himself created everything that was
made in the six days of creation and that He "rested" on the seventh
day--not, as the philosophers claimed, that He rested already on the
Yet the question remains: How can G-d relate to our lowly world?
To Jews, the answer is that our world must not be so lowly. Man is
capable of elevating himself and the world around him.
What is this Neshamah Yetairah? It is the extra push that we getfrom Shabbat to realize our potential, for Shabbat is the proof that
G-d expects more from us.
(Maharam Shick Al Ha'Torah)
"Why should Egypt say the following: `B'ra'ah / With evil
intent He took them out, to kill them in the mountains and to
annihilate them from the face of the earth'? Relent from
Your flaring anger and reconsider regarding the ra'ah / evil
against Your people:" (32:12)
R' Baruch Zvi Hakohen Moskowitz z"l (20th century rabbi in
Budapest and Vienna) asks: Following this verse, Moshe invokes the
merit of the Patriarchs in defense of the Jewish People. Shouldn't
his request, "Relent from your flaring anger etc.," have waited until
the end of his prayer?
He explains: Moshe's intention was to resolve an apparent
hypocrisy in his prayer. His prayer was, in effect: "A Chillul Hashem
/ desecration of G-d's Name will result if You annihilate Bnei
Yisrael." Hashem could have answered, "What about the Chillul Hashem
that resulted from the Golden Calf itself?" To this Moshe answered,
"Relent from Your flaring anger and reconsider regarding the ra'ah /
evil against Your people." He meant: The Golden Calf was certainly a
ra'ah. However, the ra'ah that would result from Your annihilation of
Bnei Yisrael would surely be greater. Therefore, there is no
hypocrisy in my request that You forgive them.
"He [Moshe] said, `Show me Your glory'. He [G-d] said, `I
shall make all My goodness pass before you, and I shall call
out with the Name Hashem before you; I shall show favor when
I choose to show favor, and I shall show mercy when I choose
to show mercy'." (33:18-19)
R' Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein z"l (1829-1907) explains these
verses as follows: Moshe's request was to be able to reach the highest
possible level in his grasp of the Torah so that he could then attain
the ultimate love for Hashem. Hashem answered that He would reveal
His "goodness" - an allusion to Torah, which is called "good" - and
would teach him His Name - another reference to Torah, which
kabbalists say is entirely made up of different Names of G-d.
Moshe was then concerned: How will other Jews attain such an
understanding of the Torah? Hashem answered: "I shall show favor when
I choose to show favor." The Hebrew root "chen" (translated here as
"favor") connotes something undeserved ("chinam"). Hashem assured
Moshe, "I will teach the Torah even to the undeserving." G-d also
promises in our verse to act mercifully, and it is based on this that
we pray every morning (in the blessing before Shma): "The merciful
Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on us, instill in our hearts
to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach . . ." [Without
this explanation, it is difficult to understand the repeated
references to G-d's mercy in this prayer, which primarily asks G-d to
help us study Torah.]
(Derashot Kol Ben Levi No. 15)
The Daf Hayomi
As many readers are aware, this coming Tuesday is the last
day of the eleventh cycle of "Daf Hayomi" study. The
following essay pays tribute to this historic event.
Superficially, one could describe the Daf Hayomi (commonly called
"Daf Yomi") as an undertaking in which participants worldwide study
the same page of Talmud Bavli (Gemara) on any given day and complete
it every seven-and-a-half years. R' Meir Shapiro z"l, the tzaddik who
first promoted the concept, saw it much differently:
The Daf Yomi is a bridge--though fashioned of paper--which
lifts the Jew above the stormy confusion of the waters below,
and he walks with more assurance and confidence than on the
firmest steel structure.
The great allure of the Daf Yomi concept lies in the
realization that the daf / page of Gemara which I learn here
and now is being poured over by countless Jews scattered over
the face of the earth. While each one has his own particular
mode of learning and is influenced by the intellectual
climate of his environment, nevertheless, Abaye and Rava [two
great sages of the Talmud] remain Abaye and Rava. [From R'
Meir Shapiro's remarks on the occasion of the first
completion of the Daf Yomi cycle on Tu B'shvat 5691/1931,
reprinted in the Jewish Observer, Vol. XXII No. 1]
The two-fold purpose of Daf Yomi, first begun on Rosh Hashanah
5684/1924, was to encourage Jews to increase their Torah study through
the implementation of a regimented program or quota, and to provide a
vehicle for uniting Jews worldwide. R' Meir Shapiro himself observedon the occasion mentioned above:
It was on my first trip abroad on behalf of the yeshiva of
Lublin [in 1927, to the U.S., England, and Western Europe],
when I found groups and individuals learning the daf in every
Jewish community I visited, that I saw at first hand the
impact that Daf Yomi has made in the Jewish world. Whether
it was in Strasbourg, London or Baltimore [here he mentioned
by name people whom he had met], while their styles of
learning differed, there was the same motivating force which
is inherent in Daf Yomi.
In every generation since the Daf Yomi was introduced, many
gedolim have endorsed it. The Gerrer Rebbe studied the daf and
encouraged his chassidim to do so. The Chafetz Chaim reportedly told
R' Meir Shapiro, "In Heaven, they love you dearly." R' Aharon Kotler
z"l, one of the leading sages in America in the 1950's, studied Daf
Yomi as well.
In addition to the advantages of Daf Yomi which R' Meir Shapiro
himself described, R' Moshe Feinstein z"l notes that it gives the
person the opportunity to complete the entire Torah. R' Feinstein
proves from various sources that every person is obligated to do this
during his lifetime (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah II No. 110). R'
Feinstein notes that centuries ago it was common practice to study a
page of Talmud each day, and many towns had a chevrah shas / Talmud
society which did just that (Igrot Moshe, Y.D. IV No. 36). R' Yaakov
of Lissa z"l (the "Nesivos") wrote in his famous ethical will almost
200 years ago that his sons should study a page of Gemara every day.
Copyright © 2005 by Shlomo Katz
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