Monday, April 27, 2009

Spirit of the Law: Shabbos #9

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:9: “One should not do creative labor (which is prohibited on Shabbos) that demands one’s fixed attentions for an extended period on Friday from the time of Minchah ketanah onward. One may, however, do creative labor (that is not needed to prepare for Shabbos) if it is not very absorbing. To prepare for Shabbos, one may even do labor that demands one’s fixed attentions for an extended period.”
The Mekor Chaim, zt”l, explains why the 39 melachos are prohibited on Shabbos. Hashem made the whole of Creation in order that Yisrael accept the Torah. Torah and mitzvos are also called melachah, just like the paradigmatic forms of creative labor which are prohibited on Shabbos. Our original task was to perform the melachah of Torah and mitzvos and not the mundane activities through which we make a living. When we made the golden calf, however, we failed to live up to our original calling and needed to build the Mishkan instead to atone for our sin.
We therefore preserve one day in which we refrain from doing physical creative labor, and try to live in our intended, original spiritual state. On Shabbos, we work in the main on spiritual labors. There are even some Rishonim (including the Meiri) who hold that those who can learn must be more careful to learn the maximum on Shabbos. This is because of the precious nature of one’s learning on Shabbos. The Ben Ish Chai, zt”l, writes that one hour of learning on Shabbos equals 1000 hours of learning during the week.
The first rule about spiritual labors is that they must be a pleasure, hence the emphasis on oneg Shabbos. Mundane creative labor is prohibited to make room for spiritual endeavors, but these must be enjoyable. As we say in the blessings over the Torah: “Please, Hashem our G-d, make the words of Your Torah sweet...” We ask that the Torah should be sweet to us. The same is true of every other avodah. The Maharal, zt”l, explains that we find that we are to love Hashem with our whole heart. Nowhere does it say that one should fear Hashem with his whole heart. This is because love can arouse one’s whole self to Divine service. A human being cannot fear Hashem with their whole heart unless this fear is connected to love, because this sort of fear is unhealthy and will cause a person to collapse emotionally. All avodah must be infused with love, and for this reason we are specifically commanded to make the Shabbos enjoyable through indulgence in delicacies. We should enjoy our service of Hashem. Although sometimes one must deny himself a degree of pleasure to overcome his base physical nature, this is only a phase. We must come to the level of using our physical urges and pleasures to come closer to Hashem.
To return to the Mekor Chaim, we refrain from creative labor on erev Shabbos to remind ourselves of the next world which is represented by Shabbos. Each day of the week represents ten years of our lives. Friday represents the last ten years of an average life span. As it says in Tehillim 90: “The days of our lives are seventy years...” This is another reason why we refrain from creative labor on Shabbos. We do this to represent that we will ultimately come to a world where all physical labor will come to naught and we will only be left with our spiritual achievements. Rebbe Nachman, zt”l, writes that only the humility, sincerity, and true holiness of the person will be resurrected. Even sincere desires cause us to live in connection with Hashem for eternity. So the end of Friday represents the very end of our lives. It is only fitting to at least dedicate this period to serving Hashem and weaning ourselves away from this physical world! For this reason, even absorbing creative labor for Shabbos is still permitted after the time of Minchah ketanah.
Each and every week we remember how limited are our years until we journey to the world of souls. Yet we feast and enjoy because in the end everything will surely turn out well. Even if we only acted with sincerity once in our lives, even if we only did good once in our lives for the sake of heaven, our lives are worthwhile and our souls are worthy of eternity. The very fact that we keep the Shabbos is already a reason to celebrate!

No comments: