Shabbat Observance Requires Feeling Taste of Olam Haba

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

(19:3) “VE-ET SHABTOTAI TISH’MORU”-[And you shall observe my Shabbatot]. The Zohar in parashat Teruma notes that the plural “SHABTOTY” signifies two Shabbatot, Shabbat of above, and the earthly Shabbat below.

This means, that when Adam HaRishon ate the forbidden fruit, HaShem cursed him (Bereishit 3:17). However, since GD also blessed the Shabbat, Adam’s curse became nullified upon the arrival of the first Shabbat. Adam’s curse contained four components. The first component is hard labor: “With the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread (3:19). Th second is “Amal”- “endless, uninterrupted non-productive work” .The third component of the curse is “Itzavon”- the restlessness, the fear and suffering that characterizes competitive society. A person in need of a livelihood is always frightened that someone will take his possessions away from him. The fourth component is our mortality- “for dust you are and to dust you shall return (3:19)”. Adam’s curse was to suffer continuous, exhausting, pointless labor that is by nature unproductive , resulting in conflict and ultimately, death.

The blessing of Shabbat relieves us from all four components of the curse. Work is dignified and ennobling as long as one knows when to stop. “VA’YECHAL ELOKIM BA’YOM HA’SHE’VI’I MELACH’TO ASHER ASA” [AND GD COMPLETED ON THE SEVENTH DAY HIS WORK THAT HE HAD DONE] (2:2). The Torah is telling us that GD worked and then stopped, so that we may imitate Him. On Shabbat, we are released from our relentless and competitive pressures that are often a part of mundane pursuits.

Endless work usually estranges us from our families. The Torah commands that the family rest together. Ties between parents and children are renewed on Shabbat. All members of the family are released from the curse of competition and alienation from their neighbors. The Gemara tells us (Sanhedrin 65b) of the Sambatyon River which is so turbulent and dangerous during the week that no one can cross it, but it becomes calm and peaceful every Shabbat. This is a reflection of the “earthly Shabbat”.

The fourth component of the curse, the curse of death, is addressed in “The Shabbat of above” or the “Heavenly Shabbat”, alluded to in the final Mishnah in Tamid, “Mizmor Shir LeYOm HaShabbat” “A psalm, for the Shabbat” meaning, a song for the time to come, for the day that will be entirely Shabbat and rest for everlasting life.

Shabbat itself is associated with the World to Come, based on Bereishit 1:31, “And GD saw all that He had made, and behold it was VERY good,”. At the end of the sixth day, the pasuk states that the world was VERY GOOD, a world of complete unity and totality, as implied by the word “all” .The world was in a state of wholeness and perfection. However, after the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, the world was no longer whole, it divided into separate entities of good and evil, light and darkness. After the sin, the world reverted to being merely “good” as on the first five days of creation, as opposed to ”very good”. On Shabbat, however, the world reunites with the Creator, recreating the wholeness of Creation as on the original Friday, a wholeness that will be replicated in the World to Come. That is why our Sages tell us that Shabbat is a foretaste of the World to Come.

In the Friday night Tefillot, we ask HaShem to “spread His Sukkat Shalom”, His shelter of peace, over us. A shelter of rest and peace descends from heaven and rests on earth and in our homes.

GD is giving us our taste of Olam HaBa a “Heavenly Shabbat”.

(source:Beit Yitzchok, Vol 40, p. 288)

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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