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Home » Shabbos

Shabbos: The Theology

Submitted by on November 4, 2005 – 2:01 amNo Comment | 3,282 views

A Testimony to G-d

The raw elements of the
universe that G-d created are for the most part non-utilitarian. G-d
created man and charged him with the responsibility of reshaping this
nature so that it would better provide for man’s needs.. From the
beginning of time men have struggled to manipulate the forces of
We uprooted soil in order
to plant. We have hunted animals in order to eat. We have chopped wood
in order to cook, build fires and home. These manipulations grow more
and more sophisticated by the decade. Today, we can irrigate deserts,
transplant hearts, fly to outer space and even control the flow of
rivers and oceans.
Time and time again we pit
our ingenuity and intelligence against nature and gain mastery over
them. We seek to harness its raw power and remold it so that it would
better serve the needs of mankind. 
This endeavor
is not without risks. The most profound of these risks is spiritual. We
risk viewing ourselves as the master of destiny and forgetting that G-d
alone is the true master. That he alone is the arbitrator of the
universe, and all that are in it.
G-d foresaw this possibility and gave us the Shabbos to help safeguard against this possibility.
On Shabbos we are
commanded to refrain from specific kinds of work. There are Thirty-nine
categories of Melachos (work) that are biblically forbidden on the day
of Shabbos. These thirty-nine categories seem, at first, to be a
fragmented, or at least disjointed, group.
However, upon analysis,
one will realize that it is in fact a highly organized and consistent
method of observance. The common denominator between the categories is
the question of human mastery over nature.
Sowing, planting, hunting
and baking are only a few of the work categories that are forbidden on
Shabbos. These activities transform an object, or substance, from its
original state and re-tailor it according to our needs.
The Biblical term Melacha
does not apply to physical exertion. We are permitted to exert
ourselves in all manner of work as long as we don’t alter the original
course of nature.
On the day of Shabbos we
exercise our covenant with G-d. We rest from the effort of dominating
nature and mastering our world. We come to recognize, and proclaim,
G-d’s ultimate mastery over the universe that he created.

An Influence over the Entire Week

Although the six
days of work indicate our involvement with the world and the seventh
day of rest symbolizes our submission to G-d, our weekly cycle,
nevertheless, binds the two concepts together. Our week is not made of
six-day intervals and a seventh day of Shabbos but of a single cycle of
seven days.
The Torah also indicates that it is possible
to bring these two concepts together. “Six days you shall work and on
the seventh day you rest”. Notice how the contrary concepts of working
and resting (asserting our mastery over the world and recognizing that
of G-d’s) appear together in the very same verse.
The proper observance of
Shabbos does in fact bring these two concepts together. When we stop to
recognize G-d on this day, our week emerges in a new light. We begin to
recognize, even during the week, that G-d truly is the master behind
our work.
Through Shabbos we realize
that it is G-d who implants the ideas and imparts the talent and
ability, that enables us to master our world. Accomplishments that have
hitherto been attributed to the creativity of mankind are henceforth
attributed to G-d.
Shabbos helps us make the
connection between the world in which we live and the G-d in whom we
believe. On Shabbos we find a fusion with G-d that triggers a deep
commitment, dedication and love.

A Day of Holiness

The day of Shabbos is
called Yom Kaddosh – a holy day. Our sages tell us that on this day
every Jew receives a Neshama Yeseira- an additional measure of
spiritual strength.
The Zohar teaches that on
the day of Shabbos the entire universe is uplifted. This relates not
only to the physical realm but also to the spiritual realm. The
heavenly angels and spheres are all elevated by one level on the day of
This elevation of the
spiritual worlds creates a domino effect. When the first level ascends
to a higher plane it vacates is previous position and allows for the
second level to take its original place.
The effect continues down
the ladder of spirituality and enters our realm as well. On the day of
Shabbos every Jew is given an additional measure of holiness and piety
to help him serve G-d.
For this reason the Talmud
tells us that the fires of purgatory cease to burn for the duration of
Shabbos. On a mundane level the Talmud assures us that even the
ignorant and lay people feel the unique significance of Shabbos. They
attempt to correct the error of their ways for the duration of this day.
We can now appreciate the
value of this most important of Jewish Mitzvahs. It has a beneficial
effect on so many levels. It improves our commitment to Judaism, our
communal worship and our recognition of G-d. Most important of all, it
enhances the power of our soul.