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Posted on March 1, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

The Children of Israel shall keep the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel 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. (Shemos 31:16-17)

How do I love the Shabbos!? Let me count the ways! I know this is not a Shakespeare Sonnet but he sure knew how to couch a word. There is something sublimely delicious about Shabbos. It is hard to describe with words alone. It would be like trying to explain colors to a blind person. Once it is experienced though, then it is understood, but still beyond words. The Talmud refers to it as a flavor of the next world. The Torah tells us it is an eternal sign between HASHEM and the Jewish People. If it is a sign, then where is it? How can we see it or sense it?

One Friday night, years back. I don’t know what it was that prompted me to make the comment, maybe it was all the lively conversations, or the spirited singing, or the many beer bottles that were on the table, but I flashed back to an earlier, less holy time in my life, and I said, “This is starting to feel like a fraternity party.” And one of my boys said, Abba it’s an eternity party,” and everybody went ooh-ah, it’s like it went viral in the room at that time. I don’t think we can come up with a better definition for Shabbos than eternity party, ברית עולם ביני ובין בני ישראל, an eternal covenant between HASHEM and the Jewish people. Everyone is sitting together, all over the world, for all time. On Shabbos, we realize it’s not like the world says, “whatever” it’s forever.

When the Torah tells us that Shabbos is a sign, between Me and the Jewish People, Hashem says, it’s not just an external sign, the fact that we’re keeping Shabbos, but there’s a deep, personal, inner indicator of how our relationship is going with HASHEM. Often when a couple wants to report how their relationship is going in the dating process, they’ll tell me that their conversations were lively and they really enjoyed each other’s company, but my follow-up question is, “How were the silences?” If the silences were comfortable, and you felt at ease, rather than awkward, with each other, in those quiet moments, then that’s a very good sign that the relationship is moving in the right direction.

I’m amazed by the subtle genius of the banking industry that usurped the most important words for relationships and applied them to money: trust, bond, futures, interest, fidelity, investment, balance, value, but now I’m even more amazed by the true genius of the Torah because on Shabbos, money is Muktzah; it’s like a piece of wood or a stone. It becomes worthless. And now we can re-apply those terms to the relationships we have with family members and HASHEM. Trust, bond, security, mutual, future, investment, interest, share, value, ultimate value.

I saw a New Yorker cartoon that depicted a fellow lying in a hammock in his backyard, attempting to relax, but there were thought bubbles attached to everything around him, that were declaring, “Fix me,” “Paint me,” “Repair me,” “Mow me,” and his eyes were bugging out and you could tell that there was no peace. The beauty, the splendor, the power of Shabbos is mandated in the verse, “six days labor and complete all of your work”. How’s it possible for a person to complete all of their work in time for Shabbos? And the answer is, on Shabbos it should be considered as if we completed all of our work, because it’s with the help of a commandment from the Almighty Himself that we put down the hammer, and we turn off the cellphone, and all of those thought-bubbles go to sleep. And then we can adopt a true repose of tranquility, peace, and rest. Where else in the world is this possible, nowadays?! We have a whole family sitting together for 25 uninterrupted hours without phones!? If HASHEM did not take the phone out of our hands, where would we be!? So, we sit tranquilly and indulge in the quietude and peace of family life and HASHEM’s delights. That’s a very beautiful sign!

A billion and a half descendants of Yishmael, many of whom are fanatically convinced that they are the new chosen People, move their day of rest to Friday. A billion and a half descendants of Eisov, also convinced that they are the current forebearers of Torah, move their day of rest to Sunday. Both agree that Shabbos is the seventh day. And who’s keeping the Shabbos? We, the Jewish People! And the verse openly testifies, “the Jewish people are keeping the Shabbos. to make the Shabbos for their generations, an eternal covenant, between Me and the Children of Israel, an eternal sign.”. Tell me please, is it possible, can you have a clearer sign than that?