This week’s Shabbat is the first Shabbat after the holiday of Shavuot. This is historically unique, for this is the first Shabbat that the Jewish people celebrated fully after receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. This is because the original Shavuot — when we were given the Torah and heard the Ten Commandments — was on a Shabbat. The actual event took place at the first moments of morning, making the Shabbat of Shavuot an incomplete day of rest. Only the following week did a complete Torah-mandated Shabbat take place.
The Jewish people were actually commanded about Shabbat by Moses a few weeks earlier, in Marrah, to keep and safeguard the seventh day of the week, which they did. And yet, there is something special and unique about the Shabbat after Shavuot, and the lesson we can learn from it even today.
The Midrash compares the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai to the abolishment of a decree between Rome and Syria. The edict was that the countrymen of Syria were not allowed in Rome and that the men of Rome were not allowed in Syria.
So too, the Midrash says, there was a decree that the “heavens are for G-d and the earth for mankind.” G-dliness may not come down to earth and the creations of earth may not ascend on high. At Mount Sinai G-d abolished this division and came down to earth whilst commanding Moses to ascend on high.
The practical implication of this new order is that G-dliness can permeate the mundane and that the mundane can become holy.
The Shabbat as it was before the giving of the Torah was a bliss and peace brought about by external factors. We enjoyed the peace, but were not essentially peaceful; we rested from work but we weren’t free men.
It was only this first Shabbat — the one after the giving of the Torah — when Shabbat became our very being. Shabbat is not the freedom from our week of work; rather, Shabbat is our very identity that brings purpose and G-dliness into our mundane work and days. For we become Shabbat and Shabbat becomes us.
The first three days of the week we bask in the spirituality of the previous Shabbat and the last three days of the week we prepare for the upcoming Shabbat. We become purposeful individuals and peaceful role models. Shabbat represents G-d’s purpose on earth, and the G-dly purpose is not just a day, but a lifestyle.
Shabbat is not only about having a meal and turning off our phones. Shabbat is about lighting a candle, making Kiddush, praying and learning. Shabbat is the day we bring light, blessings, spiritual direction and G-dliness into our life. The experience can and should change us and our families for the better, making every mundane aspect of our life truly “Shabbosdik” — inspired and full.
Have a good Shabbat. PJC
Rabbi Elchonon Friedman is the rabbi at Bnei Emunoh Chabad-Greenfield. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.