[This sicha was updated on Mar 13, 96]



1) The Mesilas Yeshorim introduces his famous sefer by saying it doesn't contain anything new. The purpose is rather to remind us what we may have forgotten. This sicha fits in the same category. I am just reminding you of many simple points that we may have forgotten or not brought to mind.

Everybody prepares excuses to answer Hashem on the day of judgment after 120 years. A common planned excuse is that "we did not realize the significance and severity of certain things". Now let us imagine a fellow driving blindfolded on the road and hurting himself in an accident. Does this person have a valid excuse that he couldn't see anything? Of course not! Any one realizes that you don't travel on the road blindfolded. So too when we travel down the road of life we have to travel with our eyes open. Explaining that we are hurt (spiritually) because we were blindfolded and didn't realize the significance and severity of certain things, wont be accepted.

2) The wonderful sefer "Love Your Neighbor" (Parshas Noach), by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, brings a story about a certain Rabbi would use the following certain procedure when having to confront a young man who G-D FORBID planned to marry out of the faith. He would take the fellow late at night to the holy ark, tell him to take out the Torah, throw it on the floor and spit on it. The shocked fellow would invariably say, "You must be kidding"! The Rabbi would then explain that marrying out of faith, is equal to spitting on the Torah. This approach would often have a profound effect. We see that sometimes, until it is explained, a person doesn't realize the consequences of his acts.

3) Shabbos is in the same category. Many people think that it is just a "day of rest". To them if they are not tired they find no need to rest. To others, their "rest" is going for a nice ride in the car. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Zal, in his book "Shabbos, the Day of Eternity", proves that this is incorrect, by raising the following points. If it is just a day of rest, then why is one who desecrates it punished with the most severe death penalty of stoning? Why does is it belong in the Ten Commandments right next to the prohibition of idolatry? Why can't we put on a light, is that a lack of rest?

This reminds me of a story told to me by a very respected Rabbi. He once met a certain Rebbe whose disciples were known for responding very radically when seeing someone desecrating the Shabbos. They would pelt those desecrating the Shabbos with stones and yell SHABBOS! He asked the Rebbe how would he react if someone threw stones at him and would yell, "WUNG FUNG TU"? The Rebbe explained that he wasn't exactly sure what it meant, whereupon the Rabbi said, that is exactly what SHABBOS means to these people. They don't know what it means, so screaming at them has no effect. What you have to do is to invite them into your home and show them what SHABBOS really means.

4) One aspect of SHABBOS can be understood in light of how Rav Yechezkiel Levenstein Zal (Sichot of Elul about Hashgocho Protis (Divine Supervision)) explains the purpose of davening. He explains that we live in a society that preaches kochi v'otzem yadi - (It is my great power that has brought me this success). (In fact I saw an article in the Reader's Digest about the great ship the Titanic, that one of the crewmen commented about the unsinkability of the ship that, "...not even G-D could sink this ship.") We therefore need many reminders and recharges to strengthen our belief that Hashem runs everything. This is accomplished by saying brachos and by praying.

Shabbos serves a similar purpose. One day a week is designated for us take out time from our physical needs and recharge our spiritual resources. On this day we strengthen our belief that G-D created and runs the world.

The Sefer Hachinuch writes in the root of Shabbos; (Mitzvah 32) "SHABBOS reminds us.…that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. …It also alludes to the exodus from Egypt (which teaches Divine Supervision), because in Egypt we couldn't rest when we wanted. Hashem therefore took us out and commanded us to rest on the seventh day.

If this is the purpose of Shabbos, we must make sure to accomplish these goals, and not waste this precious time.
The Yerushalami (quoted by the Mishnah Brurah 280:7) says: "The sole purpose B'nei Yisroel got the mitzvos of Shabbos and Yom Tov, is to enable them to have time to study Torah".

The following Midrash is quoted by the Mishnah Brurah (290:5)

"As B'nei Yisroel were about to enter Eretz Yisroel, the Torah asked Hashem; "Once everyone is settled down in their fields and vineyards, when will B'nei Yisroel have time to study Torah"? Hashem replied; "I have designated Shabbos as your partner. On Shabbos when work in the field is prohibited, everyone will spend the day studying Torah"."
The Shulchan Oruch (290:2) forbids eating a shabbos meal while the shiur is going on in the Beis Midrash. The Mishnah Brurah (7) points out that if eating a Shabbos meal, which is a very big mitzvah, is prohibited during that hour, surely other activities, such as spending that time in idle chat or walking the streets, are prohibited.
Eating a shabbos meal during the shiur time, is listed in the Yerushalmi, as one of the three causes for rich people to lose their wealth. (Mishnah Brurah, ibid.)
The Gomoro in Gitin relates "Two Jerusalamite families were totally annihilated. One family was punished because they were accostumed to eating their Shabbos meal while the shiur was taking place in the Beis Midrash".

The possuk says (B'reishis 2:2); "Hashem completed his work on the seventh day". Rashi is bothered by the fact that if Hashem completed his work on the seventh day, it sounds like he worked on the seventh day. How does this fit with the next line in the possuk "and he rested on the seventh day, from all his work"? Rashi explains that the world was completed in six days, but was lacking 'rest'. By resting on the seventh day Hashem created 'rest', thus creation was completed on the seventh day.

The Sifsei Chachomim asks; What role does 'rest' play in the creation of the world? Is the world any less complete without 'rest'? He answers that the purpose of creation was for us to study Torah, (see Rashi B'reishis 1:1). Without Torah study, the world cannot exist. If there would be no day of rest, there would be no time for Torah study, hence the world cannot exist. By creating rest, Hashem enabled us to have time for Torah study, thus enabling the world to exist. It is therefore that "rest" plays a major role in the creation of the world.

This lesson is not limited to Shabbos itself, but permates the entire week, as Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, the Manchester Rosh Yeshivah ZT"L, says;

"To experience Shabbos in the most desired way, one cannot wait for sundown on Friday to begin to turn his thoughts heavenward. The Torah says (Sh'mos 20:8); "Remember the Shabbos day to hallow it". That Shabbos, should be in one's mind throughout the week. R' Yitzchak says, "Don't count the days as others count them, rather you should count every weekday in relation to Shabbos".

The Ramban elaborates; "Other nations do not consider the days of the week to be interrelated. This is why they call the days by separate names, each after a different heavenly force, [Sunday, the day of the sun, Monday, the day of the moon, etc.]. Israel however, counts all the days in reference to Shabbos. As we preface the Song of the Day at the conclusion of Shacharis; "Today is the first day of Shabbos, Today is the second day of Shabbos, etc." Through constant remembrance of Shabbos, one will forever be cognizant of the existence of Hashem, Who created the world in six days and rested as it were on the seventh"."

5) So in essence SHABBOS is a TESTIMONY that we are declaring that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. For this very reason the Shulchan Oruch (OC, 268:7) says that we should say Vayechulu (B'reishis 2:1-3) while standing, because reciting Vayechulu is a testimony that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. A testimony must be said while standing. The Mishna Brurah adds that it is preferable to have two people saying it just like testimony.

Conversely one who chas v'shalom desecrates the Shabbos is declaring that he does not believe that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The Mishna Brurah in his introduction to vol. 3 writes that Chazal equate desecrating the Shabbos to idolatry.

He also points out that the 248 Positive Commandments correspond to the 248 organs in the body, and they will give these organs the power to merit resurrection. If someone is lax in a certain mitzvah then the person will be resurrected without the corresponding organ. For example, if a person was lax with the mitzvah of Teffilin, he will come back without an arm. This would be very embarrassing, as all would realize, that this person was lax in the mitzvah of Teffilin. But in this case at least the person came back to life, because one can live without an arm. Mitzvos such as Shabbos and Emunas Hashem and His Torah on the other hand, correspond to the vital organs of the body, the head and heart. If one violated these mitzvos, he will be resurrected with no head or heart, and consequently will not be able to come back to life.

This explains why one deserves stoning, for desecrating the Shabbos, chas v'shalom. It is therefore also very befitting that Shabbos is an integral part of the Ten Commandments, because keeping the Shabbos is proclaiming your belief in Hashem. Desecrating the Shabbos chas v'shalom is denying Hashem similar to idolatry.

The Chofetz Chaim (Parables of the Chofetz Chaim p.102) explains the special significance of Shabbos observance with a beautiful parable. When a person opens a business he usually places a sign overhead notifying everyone what he does and to show that he is open for business. Even when he is on vacation and the store is closed, the fact that the sign is still there shows us that he will be back. However, once he removes the sign we know that he is out of business and is not coming back. Shabbos is called an "os" - a sign. As long as a Jew keeps Shabbos, even if he may be on vacation on some Mitzvos, it is a sign that he is still a Jew and eventually he will return. If chas v'shalom a Jew removes that sign of shabbos, then he is out of business.

6) We still have to understand what kind of "Rest" we have to do on Shabbos and what kind of "Rest" can we attribute to Hashem?

In the beautiful book "Shabbos, the Day of Eternity" Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Zal, expounds on this point (p.18-20). He points out that obviously Hashem wasn't tired and didn't need the kind of rest that we need. Hashem's rest on Shabbos expressed itself in not asserting His mastery over His World. During the six days of creation Hashem 'worked' in the sense that He asserted His mastery over the world through His skills and intelligence. On Shabbos He 'rested' in the sense that He no longer asserted this mastery by not creating on the Shabbos. We too must emulate Hashem and rest from work on Shabbos. Consequently, we have a new definition for 'work' and 'rest' in the Shabbos sense. 'Work' is an act that shows man's mastery over the world by means of his intelligence and skill. 'Rest' is not demonstrating our mastery over nature. That is why even things that are not such physical labor, such as striking a match or putting on a light are also considered 'Work' in the Shabbos sense.

It is therefore essential for us to study the Halachos of Shabbos thoroughly, in order to know what is considered 'work', and how to keep Shabbos correctly.

7) The excuse some people have for not keeping Shabbos is that they have to 'make a living'. If they will not work on Shabbos, they will not earn enough money to support their family. This is also a terrible mistake. Does it make sense to go into a church and bow down to idols because we have to 'make a living'? Well, that is what we are doing if we work on Shabbos, as we said before, desecrating the Shabbos is equated to idolatry. Besides, our grandfathers were moser nefesh not to work on Shabbos, and were very often fired from their jobs because of it, so how can we nowadays, when it is not hard at all to find a shomer Shabbos job, work on Shabbos? Furthermore the Gemoro Beitza 16a says, that Hashem, at the beginning of the year, has already preordained how much money we are supposed to make that year. It will therefore not make a difference if we work one day less. (Even if it looks like you made more, Hashem will find many ways to make you lose what you were not supposed to get.) The Chofetz Chaim (Parables p.101) compares one who thinks that by working on Shabbos he can make more money, to a fool who had a barrel of wine with six faucets, and he figured if he would add another one he would get more wine. Not only won't he get more wine, but what he has will just come out quicker.

8) There is a beautiful story in "The Maggid Speaks" (by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, p.171) about Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, the Chofetz Chaim, and Shabbos. A sick fellow, Rav Asher, was about to come to the Chofetz Chaim to get a 'Brocho' for a speedy recovery. Rabbi Sorotzkin made an effort to reach the Chofetz Chayim before Rav Asher arrived, and warn him that Rav Asher's children did not observe the Shabbos. Perhaps at this opportune time Rav Asher will be more willing to accept rebuke from the Chofetz Chayim on the subject. Rav Asher however came to the Chofetz Chaim before Rabbi Sorotzkin could get to him. Nevertheless, the Chofetz Chaim told him that we say every Friday Night in the L'cho Dodi that "Shabbos is the source of blessing". If shabbos, which is the source of blessing, is happy with you, then I can be happy too. If your family keeps shabbos then shabbos will bless you. If on the other hand, your children desecrate shabbos then shabbos is not happy with you, what kind of brocho giver am I? Rav Asher accepted upon himself to make sure that his children will observe Shabbos properly, and eventually he had a total recovery.

We all know how people run to all kinds of great Rabbis just to get a blessing. As the Chofetz Chayim pointed out Shabbos is truly the source of Blessing. We must observe Shabbos properly so that it will give us its blessing. Even Esav Horosho understood what the blessing of a Tzaddik was. When he heard that Yaacov stole his Brochos he let out a terrible scream...", (The Lev Eliyahu explains that Esav was not the typical atheist that we think, or else he wouldn't care less about the Brochos. Obviously he had tremendous Emunah in Hashem and knew that a Tzaddik's blessing will be heard by Hashem.)

9) "The Best Of Olomeinu" (Vol. 2 p.43) has a story titled "Nine Miles", where refugees escaping from the Nazis walked nine miles on Shabbos to the port of Marseilles, rather than riding on a truck. A gentile woman tried to point out the senselessness of walking when they had trucks. One of the refugees explained, "For our Religion, our People have walked thousands of miles to their death; we can walk nine miles to Life." The woman was so impressed that she walked along with them.

10) The following story, printed in "Around The Maggid's Table" by Rabbi Paysach Krohn entitled "Of Twigs and a Deathbed", describes how Rav Tuvya Goldstien Shlita, and his friends were moser nefesh for Shabbos. (Story printed with permission of Mesorah Publications)

The story takes place in a Russian labor camp, in 1943. Rav Tuvya and some yeshiva bachurim were imprisoned in the camp, and were forced to work even on Shabbos. Their job was to take chopped tree trunks, twigs and branches and carry them to a nearby river. One Shabbos afternoon, the nashelnyk (field director) brought the group to the work area, and told them that he would return in three hours to check on their progress. The bachurim thought they would be left unobserved, but the nashelnyk had other ideas. He went to the top of a nearby deserted hill and secretly monitored their progress. What he saw made him very angry.

Rav Tuvya and his friends felt that if they had to work on Shabbos, they should at least minimize the Chilul (desecration of) Shabbos in anyway possible. They therefore decided to implement two halachic concepts.

The first is known as "Two who perform it"
. One of the 39 Avos Melachos (primary violations) of Shabbos is carrying in a public domain. The Gemoro (Shabbos 92b) explains that the Torah law prohibiting this, refers to cases in which one person is carrying something that can normally be carried by one person. However, if two people together carry such an item, it is not a Torah violation but rather a Rabbinic (and thus a lesser) violation. So Rav Tuvye and his chaverim carried all the branches and even small pieces of lumber, in groups of two or three.

The second halacha implemented was: Carrying less than 4 cubits at a time (Shabbos 153b).
The violation of carrying as prescribed by the Torah applies only if one carries an object for 4 cubits (around 6-8 feet). Carrying less than four cubits at a time, is only a Rabbinic violation. So all afternoon they carried the twigs in this manner, two people holding them, walking 3 cubits stopping, walking another 3 cubits stopping and so on till they got to the river.

The nashalnyk was confused by what he saw. There were literally hundreds of little twigs that were four or five inches long. Why did it take two healthy young men to carry one twig, and stop every few feet?

You can imagine that the nashalnyk was ready to explode. Upon returning to the camp that evening he put the bachurim on trial and accused them of playing games and sabotaging The Soviet Union’s great war efforts against the enemy. During the trial, the nashalnyk derided them and even impersonated their behaviour with the aid of one of the audience, showing how ridiculous the yeshiva buchrim acted. This was much to the amusement of the audience, but not to the yeshiva buchrim, who understood the severity of the matter.

When one of the bachurim tried to defend their actions on religious grounds, the judges were incredulous. One of them said, "You can't tell me that this is part of your religion. I read about Moses; he was a very smart man and there is no way that he would instruct two people to carry one twig! That's not intelligent, and Moses was very intelligent!" The judge went into a long dissertation about traitors and counterrevolutionaries and accused the bachurim of being spies. He ordered two soldiers to guard them. They were to be taken to jail where they were to await further sentencing.

Rav Tuvya and the boys decided to say "Viduy" (Confession, a prayer one says before he dies). None of them believing that he would live to see tomorrow. The judges and the nashelnyk took turns lecturing the audience for hours, about the great war efforts of the Soviet Union. Suddenly, the judges stood up as a group of six men from the Moscow Interior Central Committee entered the room. They usually came once a year to check on the conditions of the laborers. There was no purpose for them to come at night, as no one worked at night. Why were they here now?

The presiding judge, seeking to make a favorable impression on his superiors, had the nashelnyk repeat his theatrics again. The more the nashelnyk called the bachurim traitors the more the Moscow officials seemed to be pleased. All of them except one, who stared ahead stony faced. He got permission to take the yeshiva bachurim into a different room to talk to them privately. When the bachurim entered the room they stood stiffly at attention, not knowing what to expect next.

"Zets zach" (sit down), he said to them in Yiddish. "A Gutta Voch" (A good week to you, the traditional Jewish greeting after Shabbos). The officer then reassured them, "Ich bin a Yid (I am a Jew)." The bachurim then explained their story in Yiddish as best as they could. Then the officer told them his story.

"I am a Jew, but I am also a Communist. A few years ago, my mother died. On her deathbed she told me the following. 'I want to be able to die in peace. I know that you are a Communist but I want you to promise me that someday you will help a religious Jew.' I promised my mother that I would and I believe that now is the time to fulfill my promise, because it was a power beyond my control that brought me here to you. We never come to these camps after dark, but tonight, our car broke down on a nearby road. We had no idea where we could stay overnight, until we saw the lights of this auditorium. We walked over here, right in the middle of your trial."
He asked the boys who their rebbe was, and they told him it was Rabbi Boruch Ber Lebowitz from Slutzk. The officer was interested as he had an uncle in Slutzk. They talked for a few more minutes and then the officer said, "When we return to them let me speak on your behalf. I will take care of you."

When they returned, the officer addressed both the nashelnyk and the judge. "You insist that these people are counterrevolutionary, but how have they been working until now? Have they not been loyal to the Motherland?"

"Yes, yes," stammered the nashelnyk. "I don't know what happened to them today. In fact, just this past Thursday night they were the only ones who volunteered to help with a late- night delivery of heavy chains".

"That's exactly what I meant to point out," cried the officer. "They are extremely loyal in our fight against the enemy. It’s obvious that just today they changed their work habits because of this religion of theirs."

The bachurim had told this officer that they were given less food than many of the other workers in the camp. And so, when he had the judges listening intently to him, he continued to speak on their behalf. "It is my impression that these workers are amongst the most loyal in the division, but how can they produce when they are only given half the amount of bread that others are given?! Their rations must be increased. Then, they will be able to work even better!"

The other officers agreed with the "reasoning" of their comrade from the Interior Ministry. The judges, sensing that the men from Moscow were leaning favorably towards the yeshivah bachurim, softened their attitudes towards them as well. The case was soon closed and everybody went back to their rooms. No punishments were meted out to anyone.

Rav Tuvya says that from the next day on, the nashelnyk completely changed his demeanor towards the buchrim. They were never again challenged by the nashelnyk, and life for them - while never pleasant - was, from that moment on, tolerable.

When Rav Tuvya finished this story he smiled and said with pleasure, "Most Jews have the opportunity to lain (read) Megilas Esther, with its varied cast of characters and its complex plot - which ends with deliverance from death at the hands of the enemy. I lived through a megillah in which we were saved from imminent danger and saw the hidden hand of Hashem revealed. We witnessed the numerous things that all came together - a Jewish mother's final wish, a car breaking down just outside our quarters, Moscow ministers traveling at night, the minister having an uncle in Slutzk - all, so that our lives should be saved. And not only that," he continued, "but who would believe that because of that incident we began to receive double the amount of bread we had been given until then? It was an outright miracle-nothing short of that - an outright miracle."

This is how much our ancestors were moser nefesh for Shabbos, how about us? We are not being asked to sacrifice nearly as much as they were.

May we merit to see the fulfillment of Chazal's statement, "If Yisroel observe two shabbasos properly, they will merit immediate redemption."

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