פרשת כי תשא | PDF
HASHEM LIVES WITH US
“Build a home for Me and I will dwell among you,” Hashem told the Am Yisroel. It was a stupendous idea that shook them to the core. “Hashem wants to live with us, right down the block?! It was to be a tremendous achievement – Hashem wants His people to build Him a home wherein He would reside, living with the nation that He loves.
In Parshas Ki Sisa Hashem delineates to Moshe Rabeinu and to the Am Yisroel the many details of the building of the Mishkan; how the nation was to participate in building it, the construction of the keilim, the preparation of the ketores and the anointing oil, as well as the appointment of Betzalel and Oholiav to lead the way in the intricate craftsmanship required. And the nation was bubbling with enthusiasm and excitement, ready to bring Hashem down into their encampment.
And there is no doubt that the nation as a whole rose to the occasion. The project of the Mishkan was intended as an opportunity for the entire nation to participate, and we can only imagine the enthusiasm that took hold of the people as each individual took stock of what materials, skills and toil they could donate towards building the House of Hashem.
And so, it seems to us that everything should make way for this remarkable event. What could be more important than building the House of Hashem?!
HASHEM SAYS “STOP!”
And then suddenly Hashem puts a stop to it all. אך את שבתותי תשמורו – “But [make sure] to keep My Shabbos” (Shemos 31:3). The word “Ach,” which means “but” or “only,” always denotes a limitation or exception. And with that one word “Ach,” Hashem taught the Bnei Yisroel a lesson that reverberates to this day. Ach,but – despite all the instructions that I’ve given you, and despite the vast importance of the Mishkan where My Presence would reside – the enthusiasm for the Mishkan must make way for the Shabbos. My Presence resting among you – that Hashem should actually live with us – is a tremendous thing. But to keep Shabbos, to refrain from melacha and to eat chulent, that’s even more important! And that has to be explained.
Everyone knows that on Shabbos there are thirty-nine forms of work that you can not do – the thirty-nine melochos. And we learn them from the Mishkan. The Mishkan was built in the midbar with thirty-nine forms of craftsmanship. But in order to build the Mishkan of Shabbos we need to refrain from those thirty-ninemelachos, and deal with a more pressing issue. All day long the Am Yisroel was running to and fro, preparing what was needed for the Mishkan. And then it all had to stop – something more important had arrived. And that was Shabbos.
THE TWO MISHKANS
Because actually the Am Yisroel was given two Mishkans when they came out of Mitzrayim. One was the Mishkan of wood and cloth that stood in the Midbarfor forty years. And the second was the Mishkan of Shabbos, the Mishkan that is ibuilt in our home every seventh day. And both of these Mishkans are badges of aristocracy which Hashem,, the King of all Kings, has bestowed especially on his nobility – all others are forbidden from wearing this badge of honor.
NO GENTILES ALLOWED
It’s not a free for all, it’s not a public event. אתם כהני השם תקראו – “You, My people, you are called the servants of Hashem” (Yeshayahu 61:6) You’re the mamleches Kohanim; you are a nation of Kohanim so you have the right to come into the sanctuary. But הזר הקרב יומת – A gentile who comes into the sanctuary, we put him to death.
And that’s why in the Beis Hamikdash there were no goyim allowed. Outside of the Beis Hamikdash there was a sign in Latin – “Any Gentile Who Comes Inside Will Be Put To Death.” And the Roman government permitted it. Everyone understood that we were dealing with a nation that was to remain separate and distinct from the gentiles. A gentile had no right to trespass into the sanctuary of the Jews. If a gentile walked into the forbidden precincts, so the Kohanim would take him outside of the azarah, and they would break his head with pieces of wood. They would take גזרי עצים and break his head open. And the Roman government approved of that. You have no right to trespass into the Jewish sanctuary!
THE GOY WHO PLAYS WITH FIRE
And the sanctuary of Shabbos is no different. Therefore, today, if a gentile tries to keep Shabbos, he’s חייב מיתה. We don’t do it, but Hakodosh Boruch Hu will take care of him. Once a gentile visited me to ask me some questions. He had questions about Hashem and someone sent him to me. So he’s standing there telling me about how he tries to keep Shabbos. So I told him, “No, no; don’t do that.” He’s playing with fire. גוי ששבת חייב מיתה. It’s a special gift for us – a covenant between Hashem and us – only us. “It’s dangerous what you’re doing,” I said. “So what should I do,” he asked me. So I told him that every Shabbos he has to switch on the light at least once. “That way you’re not a shomer Shabbos. You have to be careful not to step over the boundary of what belongs especially for the Am Yisroel.” It’s a tremendous sin! Where do you get the boldness to put yourself in a place where you don’t belong?! Not everyone has received this gift. It’s only ביני ובין בני ישראל.
The gentiles are told, “Keep working.” יום ולילה לא ישבותו – They should never stop working. (Bereishis 8:22). It’s good for their health to always be busy. Leisure time is no good for the gentile. Most crime among the gentiles takes place on Sundays. They get together in restaurants and they shoot each other. They drink and fight with knives in the street. They knife each other at their parties. Do you know how many gentiles would remain alive if it wasn’t for the weekends? This coming Shabbos do you know how many goyim will die on the roads in America?! And that’s besides those who will stab each other at the barbecues and in the taverns. More goyim are killed on the roads on Saturday than on any other day. More goyim shoot each other and knife each other on Shabbos than any other day of the week. Saturday is a day off, and for a gentile, that is dangerous.
PUERTO RICAN WEDDINGS
When I was in Lithuania, someone showed me the “Letivus Idis” – a Lithuanian newspaper. Every Monday morning there was a list of stabbings that took place on their day of rest, Sunday. But not one stabbing took place by us on Shabbos. I already told you this joke many times – but it’s worth repeating: What is it when you see three ambulances racing down the street with their sirens blaring? It’s the end of a Puerto Rican wedding. It’s sad but it’s true.
Certainly, people who are worthless have to be kept busy. And that’s why goyim are not supposed to keep Shabbos. Only Jews have a right to keep Shabbos.עכו”ם ששבת חייב מיתה. A goy who keeps a day of rest – even if it’s on Tuesday – is chayuv misa (Sanhedrin 58b). Hakodosh Boruch Hu doesn’t want goyim to be at leisure. What do they do when they’re at leisure? They make trouble for each other. And for themselves. Did you ever walk past the car mechanic and the goyim are working. It doesn’t matter what type – the blacks and the browns, the whites, the Russians, the Israelis – they’re all busy working. And none of them will say a word to you. But when you pass the same people in the evening, sitting on their front stoop, you’d better watch out! Suddenly they have all the time in the world to bother you.
So the best thing for a goy is to be busy with work, with labor. That’s a blessing for him. גדולה מלאכה – How great is work! Suppose they would abolish the five day work week. If they would have a seven day work week it would be a hatzalah for the goyim. It would be a salvation for America. So many of the problems we have in America would disappear if the youth were laboring seven days a week. And they’d be happier people too! Because leisure time is a misfortune for those people who are not capable of using their time properly. And who is not capable? All of them.
NO STABBINGS AT THE PESACH SEDER
Do you know what X-mas is? Let me tell you. Did you ever hear of Norman Vincent Peal? He’s a famous galach – a famous gentile pastor. Norman Vincent Peal made the following statement: He said, “X-mas is the season of most drunkenness, most crime and most tragedies.” Those are his words. That’s what Norman Vincent Peal said. הודאת בעל דין כמאה עדים דמי. Now, li’havdil, think about our Purim. After Purim you clean up and everyone is all the better because of the glorious holiday. And Pesach? Nobody stabbed each other at the Pesach Seder.
What that means is that people who know how to keep Shabbos – who know how to make use of their spare time – those are the people who are supposed to have a Shabbos. And that’s why Shabbos is a great blessing for the Am Yisroel. Because we know how to utilize it – we squeeze every little bit out of Shabbos. And that’s why although Shabbos really requires little more than cessation of work, but the people of Israel have adorned it superlatively.
SHABBOS IN THE JEWISH GHETTO
I’ll quote you the words of the Zichron Yaakov who saw what Shabbos was in the Jewish towns in Europe, and he said it better than I ever could: “How remarkable were the holy ways of this people on the holy Shabbos! An entire people, poor and oppressed, whose existence hung always by a hair, was suddenly transformed at twilight on the eve of the Shabbos into a physically and spiritually happy nation, united in one great song of joy for the Shabbos-day. From the hewer of wood and the water carrier, from the least to the greatest, every man and woman, when the night fell on the sixth day, they all turned into princes, holy personalities, calm and full of confidence, and eaters of Mann, whose spirit was not dimmed by the labor of the day past, and who had no anxieties for the morrow.
“In order to rest in the seventh day, they toiled all the six days of work in every kind of body-breaking labor. For the sake of the coming Shabbos, they did not spare their arms and all their strength, and they refrained from no exertion of flesh or weariness of spirit all throughout the week. And how great the anxiety, and much haste and running there was on the day before the Shabbos! Everyone hurried, and on everyone’s lips was the solicitude for the Shabbos: Oh, it is becoming late! The sun is about to go down! The artisan urged on his apprentices: “Hurry, finish the work!” The mistress of the house urged the helping-girl, the storekeeper pressed his customer: “Buy, or depart, for the day is almost over!’ The carter urged his horses and waved his whip, and cried out: “Oh! Oh! Lift up your feet, for here is the Shabbos!” There, a Jewish man races toward the town, his staff in his hand and his pack on his shoulder, running with the energy beyond his own, raising from the road a dust cloud which covers his perspiring face; with almost his last breath he enters his home just as the Shamash summons him to the house of prayer, and he casts off his pack and washes himself clean and changes his garments while his wife is already kindling the Shabbos-lights. And like a departed dream, gone is the toil of his journey, and as if without any weariness or care all his life, he leads his children to the house of G-d, and in complete composure he joins in the serene chanting of ‘Go, let us sing to the Lord!’
THE ANGELS OF PEACE
And the carter unharnesses his weary horses, and he throws off his heavy quilted coat, soiled with dung and mud; he washes his boots of their filth and he too exchanges his grimy garments for the Shabbos raiment and walks like a man of leisure towards the carter’s prayerhouse. All the weary who toil for a piece of bread in order to ease the hunger of their families, the many who seemingly should have had cause to curse the day of their birth, now return together with the wealthy and the notables of our people, walking unhurriedly, their hands clasped behind them, with a calm mind as if they were noblemen possessed of riches. They walk enveloped in the serenity of Shabbos and contemplate the happiness awaiting them in their home, as if they lived in the day which is forever Shabbos. Each one enters his home with a smiling and bright countenance, the pious mistress of the house and her daughters come happily to meet him and receive a Good Shabbos greeting, as if the angels of peace together with his wife, bless him; and he replies, ‘Peace upon you, O angels of peace…A woman of valor who can find?’
In the purity of holy repose, they sit about the table, a man and his wife and the pure seedlings, confident and serene as if he had never seen affliction or known anxiety all their days, and without the least care of the morrow in their hearts. Their table is full of happiness, their mouths are full of Shabbos songs; like a cantor and a choir, the master of the house and his sons and his guests sing and trill from hearts rejoicing in G-d and His holy Shabbos. And it is not with abstinence from the pleasures of the body that they honor the Shabbos, for nature receives its just share, according to the Torah requirements, and the Shabbos is thus rendered delightful by food and drink and pleasant slumber. Yet he arises an hour or two after midnight in the winter night to go to the house of study to learn Torah, or to hear the Torah teachers or those who instruct in mussar, or to recite Tehillim. There are many working men to whose home a teacher comes; and despite all their toils throughout the week and their lack of sleep and the lack of time to talk to their wives because of hard labor and weariness of spirit, the wife gladly wakes the husband from his sleep, the sweet sleep of the toiler, to arise and receive Torah instruction from ‘the Rebbi.’ And how happy she is behind the curtain when she hears ‘the Rebbi’ and her husband recite with a loving chant the chapter of Mishnah, Shulchan Aruch, or Ein Yaakov.
SPEAKING IN LASHON KODESH
Even when one of the lowest class, oppressed by the thought of some unfortunate incident, opened his mouth to express his sadness: quickly the person standing about exclaimed: Hush! Hush! Do not mention such matters on the Shabbos. And he closed his mouth and removed his mind from the matter. A number of persons spoke only in the holy language with their families on this Shabbos day.
Thus do almost all of the people – they study Torah until the morning prayer which they recite with sweet chant and song and they then return to their homes happy and serene. They pronounce the kiddush over wine, but no one profanes the holiness of the day by drunkenness. They partake of the delicacies which had been prepared on the sixth day; they, their wives and children, and the poor bochur or wayfarer guest, and they then retire for a little sleep which is part of the Shabbos pleasure. Upon awakening they then betake themselves to houses of study to study on their own or to hearken to preaching by a darshan, and then comes the mincha prayer. They accompany the departing Shabbos with hearty chanting of Tehillim. And then with the weekday evening prayer and with the song of the conclusion of Shabbos, they take strength in the hope to G-d that He should send Eliyahu the Prophet and the Moshiach king.
Those words of the Zichron Yaakov give us a small and superficial glimpse into the Mishkan that Shabbos always was among the Jews. But as superficial as it is, it makes it abundantly clear why we, to the exclusion of the rest of the world, were given the Shabbos. And that’s because we are capable of using that great day. But those who don’t know how to use their spare time, are not to cease work.
THE SCHOOL FOR ADVANCED NARCOTICS STUDIES
And therefore Hashem said to gentiles, “Don’t keep Shabbos!” יום ולילה לא ישבותו – You should never stop working. It’s a blessing for you to be busy all the time. Not to keep any Shabbos. Not to have any days off. Long hours are a blessing for them – they’ll live longer. All of them – the children should go to work as well. Instead of going to school where they study narcotics and vandalism and promiscuity and atheism – every kind of evil they’re learning in the schools. The children should be allowed to work, and it would be a blessing for them. Like the way it is in many of the third world countries. All the children work and make a living. They work hard and they remain decent boys and girls because of that. But then they cross the border – they sneak into America – and they become criminals because they go to school. Work is a blessing for the gentiles. And Shabbos is a curse for them. It’s none of a goy’s business to enter into the sanctuary of the Shabbos. And thereforeעכו”ם ששבת חייב מיתה.
THE DEEPER REASON FOR OUR DAY OFF
But there is much more to our Shabbos, to our cessation of all work, than simply our ability to make use of our leisure time and not be a danger to the world. There is a much more profound reason why the goy is not invited into the Mishkan of Shabbos. And that reason is found in the words of Hashem in our parsha: אך את שבתותי תשמרו כי אות היא ביני וביניכם לדורותיכם לדעת כי אני השם מקדשכם – “Only keep My Sabbaths! For it is a sign between Me and you, for your descendants, so that you should know that I, Hashem, sanctify you” (ibid. 31:13).
So let’s study these words of Hashem for a few minutes because they will give us an understanding of what Hashem wants Shabbos to mean for us. ביני ובין בני ישראל means that on Shabbos, when we sit back and relax, it is not that we are doing nothing. What it means is that we do nothing at all except for spend time with the One who chose us forever.
THE NATION OF ARISTOCRATS
The whole world is working. Nature is working. The whites are working. The browns, the blacks. And we just sit back and do nothing?! The entire world should continue to function business as usual but we stop everything?! Why do we cease all activity and sit back in our homes like nobility who have no work to do?! And the answer is just that! We are the aristocrats of this world. Our function in this world is not to work. Of course, agav urcha, we have to make a living. We have to work for six days, but our purpose in life is Shabbos. And we sit back on Shabbos relieved from any work, because the purpose of that day is to use our minds. And we need leisure for that. Now Hakodosh Boruch Hu tells us what we are supposed to be thinking about on Shabbos. It’s not a secret at all. Only that if you’re too busy with Shabbos, you forget about its most important lesson – the one He told us about – לדעת כי אני השם מקדשכם. La’daas! Shabbos is the Day of Knowing – and the first lesson of all is to know how very important the Am Yisroel is in the world. כי אני השם מקדשכם – I have chosen you – and only you – to be My holy ones.
It states מראש מקדם נסוכה, that Shabbos was annointed from the beginning. סוף מעשה במחשבה תחילה – What happened at the end was planned beforehand. What does that mean? Hashem was waiting for a nation to step forward to volunteer to serve Him. He waited. עשרה דורות מאדם עד נח. And He was disappointed. And thenעשרה דורות from Noach till Avraham and He was still disappointed. Until Avraham stepped forward. “Oh,” said Hakodosh Boruch Hu. “That’s the one I was waiting for! He’s the one!”
HASHEM LOOKS FOR A SHIDDUCH
And therefore, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu created the world, He was like a chosson who didn’t have a kallah yet. And he bought a very expensive diamond ring and he was holding it for his future kallah. Hashem created the Shabbos in the beginning. סוף מעשה במחשבה תחילה. And He was holding that diamond ring, “Who will be worthy to wear My ring?”
And the Bnei Yisroel, the children of Avraham Avinu, stepped forward and said, “Hashem, na’aseh v’nishma, we will do everything – whatever you tell us. We’ll give our lives for you! Even though we don’t even know yet what You want from us.” And Hashem said, “If so, I’m giving you this ring, the day of Shabbos. הרי את מקודשת לי בשבת זו. You are My holy nation forever and ever just for Me alone. It’s just Me and you forever.”
STEALING THE KING’S CROWN
And therefore if a goy wants to keep Shabbos, he is trespassing on holy ground. Just like somebody who wants to practice medicine, but he never went to medical school, or he did but he didn’t pass the tests and he wasn’t licensed by the state, so he’s committing a crime and he’ll be punished for it. And so too when it comes to Shabbos. The goyim are not licensed to keep Shabbos. And so גוי ששבת חייב מיתה – A goy who keeps Shabbos – even if he keeps Sunday or Friday – he’s chayuv missah. Because he’s stealing; he has no right to wear this crown of glory which has been given exclusively to the Am Yisroel.
And therefore, the first great lesson of Shabbos is אות היא ביני וביניכם – It’s the great sign, the great sign of distinction, that is set up between Me and the Bnei Yisroel.” That’s a most important function of the Shabbos – to impress onto our minds that the Am Yisroel has been chosen as the aristocrats of the world. It’s our covenant with Hashem – and nobody else. ולא נתת השם אלוקינו לגויי הארצות – “You didn’t give it to the nations of the world.”
THE GREAT COVENANT – TOGETHER FOREVER
And it’s a covenant forever and ever. ביני ובין בני ישראל אות היא לעולם. This is a tremendous declaration: “Shabbos is a sign between Me and you – and it will be everlasting. Forever! “As long as there will be a world.” Hashem is telling us, “Shabbos is our commitment to each other. You keep Shabbos by reminding yourself that I have chosen you to be Mine, and I will keep you as Mine forever.” That’s a tremendous statement!
Now, what does this covenant mean? Hashem says that we are together forever. A ברית עולם. “Just like I am forever,” says Hashem, “You’re also going to be forever.” The nations rise – they make a big fuss in the world – but eventually they go down into the dust. But the Am Yisroel is still around. Because Hashem is forever. And He gave us the Shabbos as the sign of our permanence, of our connection to Him.
You should think about that on Shabbos. Shabbos is the time to utilize this great lesson. To think about who you are, the great nation that you are a part of. You’re a גוי קדוש, a holy nation chosen by Hashem. You’re sitting at the table and everybody is happy and eating and talking. It’s wonderful! But you’re utilizing your time wisely. You’re utilizing every minute thinking these great thoughts. Nobody knows what you’re thinking. But you’re looking at your children, your wife, your guests, and you’re looking at Hashem’s holy people. You’re thinking about the words that Hashem told the Bnei Yisroel in this week’s parsha: כי אות היא ביני וביניכם לדורותיכם לדעת כי אני השם מקדשכם – Hashem set this day as a special sign between Me and you, as well as your descendents forever and ever, so that you should know that I, Hashem, make you holy. Shabbos is la’daas! Hashem says that – He says: “I gave you the Shabbos so that you have the opportunity to gain more and more da’as. To utilize the day to recognize that Hashem has made us holy, that He has separated us from the rest of the world to be holy to Him – to be His servants.”
THE KALLAH STEALS GLANCES AT HER RING
You know that when a kallah wears her ring she’ll look at it from time to time, to bask in her glory and happiness of being a kallah, of being the chosen one. And that’s what Shabbos is for us. Except that it’s a full day of looking at the ring. But if you never take a look at the ring, if you just eat, and daven and sleep without stopping to think, then you’re missing one of the great opportunities of life. The more you utilize the day of Shabbos, the more da’as you achieve. So at least one minute you can donate to think these thoughts of לדעת כי אני השם מקדישכם. And if you do two minutes, you’re a tzadik – you’re a head taller than the rest of the world.
LEAVING MITZRAYIM EVERY SHABBOS
Now, everyone knows that there’s a halacha that on Shabbos you have to make kiddush Friday night. It’s מדאורייתא. Hashem says זכור את יום השבת – You have to announce the Shabbos. And the Gemara tells us that when making this proclamation about Shabbos, you are obligated to mention yetzias mitzrayim. And if you don’t, you’re not yotzei your mitzvah of kiddush. Because Shabbos, among its great lessons, is also זכר ליציאת מצרים.
MAKING KIDDUSH GREAT AGAIN!
Now you’re all saying it every Shabbos – more than once. זכר יציאת מצרים. But do you know what you’re saying? How many Shabbosim will pass you by without you understanding – even the simple pshat of these words. Not the peirush ha’milos, but the pshat. So let’s study this subject, and at least from now on your kiddush will be a real kiddush.
WE WERE CHOSEN TO KNOW THAT WE WERE CHOSEN
So why do we mention יציאת מצרים? And the answer is that Shabbos shows that Hashem chose us to be His people. And when did He do that? When He took us out of Mitzrayim. Hashem turned over the world! And for what? For whom? For us! We, the Am Yisroel, were chosen to be His people. And when were we chosen? שלח את בני, Hashem said. “Send out My son.” That’s the first time Hashem said that. At Yetzias Mitzrayim, Hashem called the Am Yisroel “My son.” He chose us in Mitzrayim. So we were chosen at Yetzias Mitzrayim for this job – for celebrating the Shabbos, for thinking, for knowing, and thereby demonstrating once every seven days, that we were chosen by Hashem. He took us out of Mitzrayim to be His chosen people and to serve Him forever. And that’s one of the aspects of ZeicherLi’yitzias Mitzrayim that we think about on Shabbos.
ELEVATED AT YETZIAS MITZRAYIM
And that’s what the Torah tells us is the reason for the איסור שרצים, the prohibition of eating crawling things and other forbidden foods. כי אני השם המעלה אתכם מארץ מצרים להיות לכם לאלוקים – “For I am Hashem who took you up from the land of Egypt to be your G-d” (Vayikra 11:45). And Chazal (Bava Metziah 61b) are surprised: Why does the Torah use the language of “Who took you up,” instead of the more familiar, Who took you out”? And the answer is given: “Said Hakodosh Boruch Hu: ‘Had I lifted you up from Mitzrayim to the greatness of being My people solely for this that you shouldn’t defile yourself by eating abominable creatures, it would have been sufficient.’ And Rashi explains: “It is written with a language of ‘elevation’ for when I took you out of Mitzrayim to be My people and follow these laws, it was the greatest elevation for you.” That’s what יציאת מצרים was – the elevation of our status to become the people of Hashem forever and ever.
THE DIET OF NOBILITY
And so when you sit down at the Shabbos table, and you see the food that your wife spent day and night preparing, you should think about that. First of all, you should thank your wife for all the effort she put into preparing the Shabbos food. And then you should think, “Did my wife go out to any gentile grocery to buy the chicken? Did she buy the fish at the goyishe store on the corner? No! Because we have a special diet – a diet of nobility. Hashem elevated us to be his especial people when He took us out of Mitzrayim. And so you shouldn’t waste that great opportunity – you’re sitting at your Shabbos table, the Shabbos table that is off limits to a goy, and you’re eating the diet of the noble people. It’s אות היא ביני וביניכם, it’s the sign between Hashem and us, לדעת, so that you should know – “to know” means to think about it again and again, every chance you have – כי אני השם מקדישכם, that I Hashem have separated you from the rest of the world to be Mine forever.
And therefore, Yetzias Mitzrayim was the demonstration of bechiras Yisroel, that proclamation to the world that we were chosen by Hashem forever and ever. Every seventh day, we stop our busy lives, and we reestablish that covenant with Hashem, the אות היא ביני ובין בני ישראל, that signifies that we came out of Mitzrayim for one purpose only – to be His especially chosen nation forever and ever. And there’s no end to how much thought we have to put into this subject, and how much we have to impress it on our minds, because the entire world echos against this great principle of Hashem!
THE SANCTUARY OF THE MIND
And so we return to the possuk that we began with: אך את שבתותי תשמורו – But [even though you’re wild with enthusiasm about building Me a home so that I can reside among you] but still you must keep My Shabbos. The building of the Mishkan must yield before the Shabbos. Why is it that Shabbos pushes aside the building of the Mishkan, what was one of the most important and dramatic events in our history? And the answer is the following. Shabbos is the more important Beis Hamikdash! When you sit around your table on Shabbos with your family, and you say kiddush and eat the wonderful challah that your wife baked, and you enjoy the chicken and the chulent, that’s more important than the Beis Hamikdash. Your home on Shabbos is more important than the Mishkan that stood in the midbar or the Mikdash in Yerushalayim. Because those structures were sanctuaries of wood and cloth and stone – but Shabbos is a sanctuary of the mind.
And the sanctuary of the mind is even more important and greater than the Mishkan because it’s in your own home. It’s the day you spend with your own family gaining da’as. And you don’t have to be oleh regel to achieve the da’as; it’s right there with you one-seventh of your life. One-seventh of your life, sitting in your home with your family, gaining da’as.
And so, while the sanctuary in the midbar was built with thirty-nine forms of work, when the Shabbos comes we build ourselves by refraining for all those forms of work. And we use the leisure time to build our minds with the ideals of Shabbos. In order to erect the Sanctuary of the Mind that Shabbos is, we abstain from all the acts of craftsmanship, of creating, of doing, so that we can build a more important Mishkan, the Mishkan of the mind.
A GOOD CHULENT IS BETTER THAN MOSHIACH
Shabbos comes first. And it’s not only the Mishkan that gets pushed away because of Shabbos. Even erev Shabbos takes precedence, and it takes precedence before even the greatest of ideals. And that’s the pshat in the statement of Chazal that Moshiach won’t come on Erev Shabbos. כבר מובטח להם לישראל שאין אליהו בא בערב שבת- Eliyahu Ha’Navi won’t come to the Am Yisroel to be mi’vaser the good tidings of the geulah on Erev Shabbos (Eiruvin 43b). What does that mean?! Is preparing a good chulent more important than Moshiach?!
So I’ll explain it to you. The reason is because the lesson of Shabbos is too important for us – for our growth – and we need time to prepare ma’adanim andta’anugim for this most special day. And if it wasn’t for the preparations of erev Shabbos, then the lessons of Shabbos wouldn’t get into our bones. If we didn’t prepare on erev Shabbos, our Shabbos wouldn’t be a Shabbos. Your wife would come to the table holding a tray of chumashim for the family to read. That would be the Shabbos meal! But Hashem wants it be a celebration, an overflow of happiness that we have been chosen. And for that we need the erev Shabbos, preparing all the delicacies for this great day of happiness, so that the lesson will stay with us forever.
ELIYAHU HANAVI WILL HAVE TO WAIT – I’M BUSY THINKING
So, when you sit down on Shabbos to eat, you’re thinking – you should be thinking – “We’re celebrating that Hashem chose us to be His people.” While you’re eating you should be thinking these thoughts! It’s a geshmaka chulent. You’re eating and enjoying it. But don’t skip the thinking because that’s part of the sugya. And it’s a geshmaka sugya! Hashem wants you to learn this sugya with a cheishek. And therefore, Eliyahu has no business interfering with that. It’s too important. So on Erev Shabbos he won’t come. It would spoil the lesson. We can’t have Eliyahu Ha’Navi interrupting such important preparations. The acquisition of da’as, the internalizing of the great ideal of Shabbos – כי אני השם מקדשכם – which is what Shabbos means to us, is so important that even the geulah is delayed for this purpose. And therefore Eliyahu Ha’Navi can not come on Erev Shabbos and spoil the geshmakeit of that seudah.
WE WIN THE GOLD!
And therefore we see that this great lesson, that we are the people chosen to be Hashem’s nation forever, is a very important lesson that won’t yield before anything else. And so, we should be sure to utilize that lesson as much as possible. When we sit down to the seudah on Shabbos and we’re enjoying the tasty foods, we should be thinking – “Boruch Hashem, that He gave us the Shabbos.” What a great blessing the Shabbos is for the Am Yisroel. And among the greatest of blessings is that “this is a sign between Me and you.” That’s Hashem talking to us! The Shabbos is a special sign of recognition for the Am Yisroel. It’s a sign of kavod bestowed upon us by Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Suppose a man came over to you and gave you a gold medal to hang on your chest – you’d be very excited. You’d wear it every day. Shabbos is a gold medal for us. And we’re so happy with it. And therefore you have to really enjoy the Shabbos and feel what a pleasure and kavod it is for the Am Yisroel. כי אות היא ביני וביניכם – It’s a special medal for us. And we’re eating a special seudah to celebrate that.
THINKING WHILE CHEWING THE GEFILTEH FISH
So before we go away from each other, let’s make it, bli neder, a principle that there will never be a Shabbos where we don’t think at least a little bit about this great function of Shabbos. There are many other functions of Shabbos as well. And one day we’ll speak about them at length (SEE NEXT WEEK’S TORAS AVIGDOR). But at least this great principle of ביני ובין בני ישראל should be at the forefront of your thoughts on Shabbos. As you walk to shul, or while you’re sitting at the table eating the gefilteh fish – any free moment – think about that. We, the smallest of all nations, have been chosen by Hashem to be His people, the aristocrats of the world, who spend their lives, who spend their leisure time, in His service.
A JEW MUST LIVE WITH MACHSHAVA
The Jewish people are expected to keep this reason in mind. It’s not a middas chassidus – it’s not the words of a darshan, a far off pshat. It’s the words of Hashem – the simple pshat in the words of Hashem. And I told you once that there is nothing as deep as the simple pshat in the words of Hashem. You are not a success if you just perform the mitzvos of Shabbos mechanically. A Jew must live with machshava, with da’as. A Jew must think! Because the Jew has the function of accomplishing great things on Shabbos. It’s a career – a career of thinking on Shabbos – and it’s a career that no nation in the world is privileged to be invited to participate in. It’s ours, and only ours. And only by spending your Shabbos in thought will you succeed at accomplishing what Hashem has given you the Shabbos for.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.