Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Spirit of the Law, Shabbos III (Kitzur, chapter 72:6)

6) A universal custom among the Jewish people involves baking challah in honor of Shabbos... Even if bread baked by a Jew is available, each household should bake so that the woman of the house can take challah from the dough, etc.

Rav Nosson explains one of the deeper reasons behind lighting candles and taking challah in honor of Shabbos, as well as why the performance of these mitzvos is the woman's perogative.

Rebbe Nachman explained the verse, “Hashem is close to all who Him in truth,” in a novel way. No matter where you have fallen, if you will just call to the Creator in truth on your own level, He will surely reveal Himself to you since He is close to any who call in truth. Even if all you can do is say, "please help me," this will also reveal the portals that lead out of spiritual darkness to the illuminationof true connection.

Shabbos candles represent the light of truth that cuts through the deepest darkness and illuminates the path back to holiness, since Shabbos represents the next world which is the ultimate truth. Speaking even one word in truth illuminates the most mundane situation and brings closeness to Hashem, much as Shabbos imbues the mundane with sanctity.

The truth was easily discernible before Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When they ate, “the light of the world was extinguished.” This means that before they ate, they existed in a more enlightened state and could easily tell the difference between right and wrong. After they ate, evil went from being external and noticeable to internal and difficult to discern.

Their intention when eating was to intensify their challenges so that they could ultimately afford Hashem more pleasure when they toiled to choose good over evil. Their mistake was that they should have done what Hashem said regardless of what they understood to be more beneficial spiritually. Hashem had said not to eat from the fruit; they should not have eaten.

Challah is set aside for a kohein, a direct male descendant of Aharon who is referred to as the "man of truth" in the verse. The kohein is the paradigm of the tzaddik who has more connection to the truth than the average person. By giving him the challah, he demonstrates how we can connect even our bread to the ultimate Source, the absolute truth of all creation.

Forging a connection with a kohein galvanizes a person to redouble his efforts in his quest for truth and holiness.

Nowadays the challah is not given to a kohein, but it is burned. The very fact that we separate a small amount of dough and yearn to give it to a kohein and attain the lofty connection this brings connects us to the higher aspect of striving for truth. It has the required effect as though we had given the challah to a kohein.

Women as a whole were affected by Chava's sin to a great extent. (This is in accordance with the relevant verses as well as Midrashic, Talmudic, and Kabbalistic teachings on them. The subject is a very broad one that will be addressed later on in the series.) The rectification of this is that women work to restore the truth to the world by lighting Shabbos candles and increasing their levels of truth by giving challah. This explains a little of why we separate challah before Shabbos and why women have the especial perogative to fulfill the mitzvah.

May Hashem fill us with the truth and the light of Shabbos!

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