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Parshat Ki Tisa: Making Majestic Moments

Based on a shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

In Parshat Ki Tisa the pasuk says, “The children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat, to make (la’asot) the Shabbat an eternal covenant for their generations.” We can guard and keep (shamor) the Shabbat, but how can we “make” the Shabbat?

The simplest explanation involves someone who is lost without a way of determining dates. He, in fact, does make his own Shabbat. The gemara presents two opinions as to when he should keep Shabbat. Either he considers the first day as Sunday, and then the seventh day will be his Shabbat. Alternatively, he should consider his first day as Friday and the next day will be Shabbat. No matter which method this lost person would use to calculate Shabbat, he is most probably missing the true day of the week. Why should he do this? The Chayei Moshe says that one is rewarded for whichever day one decides to keep the Shabbat, for the purpose is to recognize one’s obligation to create a Shabbat and recognize God’s mastery over the world. If we designate a seventh day for Shabbat, we will merit observing more Shabbat days in the future.

By properly observing and guarding Shabbat in this world, we are creating our Shabbat in the World to Come, says the Ohr Hachayim. But this is not easy, points out Rabbi Pincus, as the laws of Shabbat are complex. It is therefore important to study them regularly if we are to observe and “make” Shabbat correctly.

Although the onset and end of Shabbat are divinely ordained, we still have the ability to create Shabbat by ushering it in early and delaying its departure. In this way we add to its holiness and our joy. Many of us have heard that if Bnei Yisroel were to keep two Shabbatot properly, we would bring the end of the exile. Lashon Chasidim quoting the Kedushat Levi explains that when we keep Shabbat appropriately, we will influence our behavior for the entire week to come. The following Shabbat will then be elevated to a whole new level. We are thus creating an enhanced Shabbat each week, in a spiral effect from one week to the next, and making ourselves worthy of reciprocal blessings from Hashem.

Rabbi Goldwicht explains that all life experience, especially Shabbat, can be divided into three stages: chochma, binah, and daat. One first gets information, then processes it, and finally internalizes it. Shabbat is Hashem’s gift to us without any effort on our part. When we process the message of Shabbat, we realize that if Hashem is Master of the world, He is in control of everything. There is no reason for me to get angry at circumstances or at people. When that process informs my actions during the week, I then enter the following Shabbat on a more exalted spiritual plane.

A similar process took place during the redemption from Egypt. The first Shabbat was a gift from Hashem. But we were not yet ready to process that information; we were still in an enslaved state of mind. When the second Shabbat came and Hashem split the sea, we saw true reality. We were able to recognize God’s immanence, point to Him and declare, “This is my God and I will glorify Him.”

Our challenge is to take the Shabbat experience and internalize it, so that the Havdalah ceremony does not separate us from the Shabbat experience and its spiritual underpinnings. Rabbi Bick emphasizes that we maintain the holiness that Shabbat imparts, we can make the Shabbat experience part of our daily lives.

Shabbat cannot be truly experienced without involving thought and emotion. Only thought can impart sweetness to Shabbat, writes Rabbi Schwab. Without it, the day remains empty, devoid of sanctity and connection. Shabbat should be viewed as our time of intimacy with Hashem, as the cherished moments bride and groom spend together after the wedding ceremony, writes Rabbi Pincus. As such, many activities are inappropriate for Shabbat, for they divert attention from the relationship. Reading secular materials and discussing business, and certainly lashon hara diminish the connection between ourselves and Hashem.

Rabbi Pincus suggests investing Shabbat observance, as well as Torah study, with an attitude of joy and a taste of sweetness, rather than with a feeling of self-sacrifice. On Shabbat we eat three meals, more than during the week, because our neshama yeseirah wants us to enjoy our time with Hashem. We should not feel deprived, but rather focus on the joy and spiritual elevation we can glean by devoting ourselves to that which is truly significant in our lives. It is up to us to make this time special, and to create the Shabbat atmosphere. We can incorporate the joy Shabbat is meant to bring into our lives so that we can transmit the covenant to future generations forever.

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