Friday, July 31, 2009

Spirit of the Law: Shabbos 72:17 and 18

Labor on Shabbos by a Non-Jew for a Jew [Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: Shabbos 72:17]

One must be careful to remove food cooking (on coals) from the coals before Shabbos. If one forgot to remove the food from the coals before Shabbos, one may not remove the food from the coals (since the pot is resting on the coals this would certainly at least partially extinguish the coals and this is forbidden on Shabbos). A non-Jew can remove the pot for the Jew (since he is not trying to extinguish the coals but the extinguishing is unavoidable because of the act that he is doing. The sages permitted a non-Jew to do this type of de facto melacha.)

Since we have already seen how important it is to refrain from halachic labor on Shabbos, it seems quite strange that we are sometimes permitted to do halachic labor via a Gentile. Why should this be permitted? It is true that we learn from the verse that a Gentile has not ability to be a sheliach, halachic messenger, yet since it is so important not to do labor on Shabbos, how can we do labor in any way at all? Why isn't this at the very least not in keeping with the sanctity of Shabbos and prohibited across the board, just like the labor of a Jew?

In order to understand this we must delve into why Yitzchak wished to give the blessings to Eisav. After all, it is not as though he was not already a completely wicked person. How is it that Rivkah saw through him yet Yitzchak did not?

The Likutei Halachos explains that Yitzchak figured that Eisav would act as the administrator of worldly goods and provide for the material needs of Yaakov, while Yaakov toiled in Torah, much like the famous arrangement between Yisachar and Zevulun. This would have been ideal if only Eisav had been willing. The Arizal actually writes that if only Eisav had gone over to the side of holiness he would have been much greater than Yaakov since his source was much higher, since he had a harder time becoming a tzaddik. But in truth Eisav had absolutely no inclination to use his strengths to serve the side of holiness. He wanted the blessings all to himself.

The Zohar writes that this was a very dangerous time since if he had received the brochos, Yaakov, and his children after him, would have had no way to support themselves, since all materialism would have to go through Eisav, and he was completely unwilling to give anything for the support of Torah or holiness. It was only thanks to Rivka that Eisav did not prevail and Yaakov received the brochos.

This explains why Rivkah could not just tell Yitzchak her fears. Yitzchak knew that Yaakov was more righteous. He wished to give the brochos to Eisav since he saw the wondrous rectification Eisav would have made had he done teshuva. Eisav fooled his father into thinking that he was on the path to holiness when his entire interest in holiness was only to rob the brochos from his holy father.

The Zohar further explains the reason why Yaakov had to be forced by Rivkah to trick Yitzchak into giving him the blessings. Rivkah was a reincarnation of Chava who tricked Adam into eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, so this was her way of partially rectifying her blemish. She was tricked by the side of evil and she tricked the side of evil into relinquishing the brochos.

But what does this have to do with the halacha? The answer is that the original plan of Eisav working in the material and supporting Yaakov is still intact. Although Eisav rejected it, in times to come the righteous Gentiles will be in charge of materialism while Jews who merit this will bask in the light of true spiritual development in the ultimate future. Now we understand why the Torah permits a Gentile to do prohibited labor for a Jew on Shabbos. Shabbos represents the ultimate future, when Jews will no longer be involved in material pursuits. Just as Gentiles will be dealing with these pursuits in times to come, they are permitted to deal with them now as well.

The only reason the sages were so stringent regarding telling a non-Jew to do halachically prohibited labor on Shabbos is because this will naturally desensitize them from doing such labor themselves. But in certain situations, such as our halacha, a non-Jew is permitted to do what is forbidden for a Jew.

Connecting to Hashem on Shabbos [Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: Shabbos 72:18]

Foods that are left to cook in the oven before Shabbos to cook, are permitted even though the door to the oven is not sealed with mud (or something else. I would have thought one needs a reminder not to open the oven). It is prohibited to open the oven at night since maybe one of the dishes is not fully cooked and by closing the oven one is cooking on Shabbos (because now it will cook faster).

It is significant that the Torah specifies only the halachic labor of fire while discussing the prohibitions of Shabbos. Rav Nosson, zt”l, explains that everything Hashem created can be used to recognize and come closer to Hashem. This can be done only by mankind. Only humans have enough understanding to recognize the Creator. This is the purpose of Creation, that we recognize Hashem through every experience even the most physical.

This is why Hashem brought all His creatures to man to give them a name. The name is the essence, the way we can grasp the thing is through a name. Since mankind’s purpose is to search for the sublime in everything, the first man was the one to give names to everything.

For this reason as well, everything was created lacking completion. This is the purpose of all the melachos during the week, to complete the physical world which lacks wholeness.

For example, how much hard work and how many steps must one invest merely to plant a field with seeds, until he has harvested the wheat? But even then he is not nearly done. He must then do a whole new series of steps until he is finally able to enjoy some freshly baked bread. The same is true regarding garments we wear. It takes hard work to grow the wool or flax, etc., and even then we must still put in huge efforts before we finally have a garment.

Let's take the example of turning wheat into bread. If one looks at wheat kernels, he will likely have just as difficult a time recognizing the greatness and kindness of the Creator as an inedible plant. But once one partakes of bread it is much easier to see the greatness of Hashem (if he considers it). Clearly it is easier to appreciate the Creator through bread which is the work of man, than through a kernel of wheat.

Had Adam been worthy, he would have been able to complete all of Creation with such ease. His only task was to daven on erev Shabbos, until Shabbos. If he had only done so without ignoring Hashem's one commandment, he would have recognized Hashem through the entire creation with great ease. In this way, he would have fulfilled the purpose of creation.

But instead of davening, Adam sinned. As a result of his blemish, everything was damaged and it was no longer possible to attain completion through prayer alone. This is the deeper meaning of Hashem's decree that, "He shall eat bread with the sweat of his brow." We would now have to toil to get bread from wheat. In our imperfect world, it is only through rigorous effort that most can appreciate the Divine through the physical world. And even the most refined have to do many physical tasks and chores. It is virtually impossible to live without this.

Most people must work for a living and everyone has to contend with our very physical world. We must eat and attend to physical needs. We all must have food cooked for us, clothes woven for us, etc. It is only through the thirty-nine forbidden Shabbos labors that we can bring the material world to completion.

Every person has an inner fire which can be used for good or bad. Before Adam's sin, one was not drawn towards overindulgence by the material reality. But Adam's sin lowered the material world. He gave power to the forces of evil which strengthened the inner fire of illicit desire for unnecessary material indulgence. This can be food, other lusts, honor, money, etc.

Rebbe Nachman calls the negative destroying fire meorei eish. When the fire is a balanced flame used to better a person's connection to Hashem it is meorei ohr.

Of course every person must also use the negative fires to serve Hashem. He needs to pray passionately, and arouse this kind of might when setting boundaries. But this needs to be used sparingly and with great care.

Our sages taught that Adam only survived in the merit of Shabbos. This teaches that for us today, as well, the main way to rectify any blemish is through the holiness of Shabbos. The reason why is because on Shabbos the forces of evil have no power at all. The light of Hashem illuminates all the worlds and the venom of the snake of the fire of lust is pushed aside since, in a sense, the sin of Adam is rectified just before each Shabbos.

Any person who is interested is afforded great spiritual connection on Shabbos. No matter how much he has sinned, even if he transgressed the whole torah, chas vishalom he can recognize Hashem and do true teshuvah by connecting to the holiness of Shabbos. No matter how low one may have fallen, even if he is on the lowest possible level, chas vishalom, he can return through keeping Shabbos and connecting to tzadikim (at the very least this means learning their advice and following in their ways.)

Now we understand why we are prohibited from doing the 39 halachic labors on Shabbos. Since one can find Hashem on Shabbos, without being involved in material pursuits, one who does such labor regardless is clearly denying the sanctity and holiness of Shabbos.

One who lights a fire on Shabbos is causing a meorei eish. This is one reason why the melacha of making fire is singled out and mentioned when Hashem tells us to keep Shabbos. We are commanded about this since this is the sad result of forbidden halachic labor.

This also explains why Chazal were exceedingly strict with restrictions about safety measures to ensure that we will not come to forget ourselves and make illicit use of fire on this holy day.

Meorei ohr is a feeling of balanced connection. Kind of like when we do something good or we get nachas from someone. We feel a steady balanced pleasure, “a warm glowing feeling inside”. This is how we should feel when doing mitsvos and at all times. This comes (slowly!) from true connection to Hashem through Torah and mitsvos. Of course there are very many levels. Sometimes it is much stronger, and more powerful, but it is always balanced. It is not a consuming fire at all. It is the opposite of one who feels his adrenalin rushing and gets an intense feeling of self. This type of feeling should be channeled into avodas Hashem which transforms the feeling into a balanced connection.

Meorei ohr is when we are filled with happiness, emunah, bitachon, joy, self-worth and anavah. These are the middos which come from the Sefira of Malchus, genuinely accepting the kingship of Hashem, which is easily accessible on Shabbos to all of us.

Meorei ohr is the opposite of anger jealousy conceit or feeling a “burning” physical desire. When we feel any of these things it is our job to have the courage to “reboot” because of a problem with “our system”. We realize that if we fell down, it is time to start again, since our meorei ohr went out and all is darkness.

Eventually one gets the negative fire less and less. He has already felt the sweetness of true connection and really does not want to get angry or display other unfortunate midos, since he knows that this will cause him to lose his connection. Of course, anyone may regain it at any time, but this takes the humility of a new start.

As the Likutey Halachos writes all sin and distance from our Creator comes from the place we are in or the time we are at. We feel that we cannot connect from our physical or emotional starting point. Of course this is just an outright lie. There is no time or place in which we cannot connect to Hashem!

May we merit the true connection of Shabbos which is meorei ohr and may this influence us during the days of the week. May we merit the connection of the true Talmedei Chachamim for whom the illumination of the light of Shabbos shines onto the six days of the week!

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