Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Nissan 5760 - May 3, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Opinion & Comment
The Elevating Nature of Shabbos

by HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira

Part I

"You did not give it, Hashem our Elokim, to the nations of the lands, nor did You make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshipers of graven idols. And in its rest the uncircumcised shall not abide" (Shemoneh Esrei, Shacharis of Shabbos).

The Brisker Rav asks about the seeming redundancy of this text. If the tefillah states that Hashem did not give the Shabbos to the nations of the lands, we understand from that alone that the uncircumcised (the non-Jews), will not abide in its rest.

Shabbos, explains the Rav, embraces two matters: First are the issurim of Shabbos, that is, what Hashem prohibited us from doing. Second is menuchas Shabbos, the rest of Shabbos, which is a special creation within the world's total creation. Just as the world came into being during the Six Days of Creation, so did this second aspect of Shabbos, which is the menuchah we experience on Shabbos. The rest that comes on Shabbos is the final part of the creation (see Rashi, Bereishis 2:2).

Now we understand that the tefillah is not at all repetitious. We start by saying that Hashem did not give the issurim and mitzvos of Shabbos to the non-Jews, and they are even explicitly excluded from these--"You did not give it, Hashem our Elokim, to the nations of the lands." Afterward the tefillah states that Hashem did not even impart the menuchah of Shabbos to them--"and in its rest the uncircumcised shall not abide."

We emphasize that non-Jews do not have any menuchah, since we might have thought that just as they benefit from the other things created during the Six Days of the Creation, such as the sun, the oceans, and the animals, so they would have rest on Shabbos. The tefillah therefore stresses that not only are they divorced from the mitzvos of Shabbos, but also the creation called "rest," menuchas hanefesh on Shabbos, is likewise reserved only for Jews.

Another part of this tefillah also needs to be better understood. Although the Brisker Rav resolved the above question of repetition, it remains to be understood why we add in our tefillah "nor did You make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshipers of graven idols." Do we not know this from the beginning of the tefillah, "You did not give it, Hashem our Elokim, to the nations of the lands"?

Furthermore, the Brisker Rav's statement that the beginning of the tefillah tells us that HaKodosh Boruch Hu did not give the mitzvah of Shabbos to the non- Jews is self- evident. None of the mitzvos were ever given to non- Jews except for the seven mitzvos of bnei Noach. The mitzvah of Shabbos is included among the other mitzvos.

If we carefully examine the Brisker Rav's explanation we will find the answer to our problem. He does not merely write that non-Jews do not have the mitzvah of Shabbos; he writes that they are excluded from it. Non-Jews are not obligated to perform any of the other mitzvos, but if they observe those mitzvos anyway they are rewarded like someone who voluntarily does the mitzvah although he was not obligated. [Just as the Rambam (Peirush Hamishnayos--Terumos) writes: that if a non-Jew separates terumah it is considered halachically proper terumah since he is rewarded for doing the mitzvah although he is not obligated.]

Shabbos is different. Even if a non-Jew performs the mitzvos of Shabbos he receives no reward at all. He has nothing to do with Shabbos, since he is excluded from it, and has no reward when he does it of his own volition. This is the chidush of, "You did not give it, Hashem our Elokim, to the nations of the lands"--the non-Jews are excluded from the mitzvah of Shabbos.

This chidush is explicitly stated in the Mechilta on the posuk, "Bnei Yisroel shall keep the Shabbos . . . between Me and bnei Yisroel it is a sign forever" (Shemos 31:16- 17). The Mechilta (ibid.) writes that the words "bnei Yisroel" come to rule out non-Jews from Shabbos observance: "`Between Me and bnei Yisroel' and not `between Me and the non- Jews.'"

Why do we need a special posuk to tell us that non- Jews do not have the mitzvah of Shabbos? After the Brisker Rav's chidush this point is understood: the Mechilta is teaching us that the non-Jews are not only not obligated in the mitzvah of Shabbos, they are barred from it. Even more than this: not only they are not rewarded for observing Shabbos, Chazal (Sanhedrin 58b) rule that if a non-Jew rests on Shabbos he is punishable by death.

The Brisker Rav's explanation that non-Jews are excluded from the mitzvah of Shabbos can be easily inferred from the tefillah's wording. According to the Rav's statement that, "You did not give it, Hashem our Elokim, to the nations of the lands" refers to the non-Jews' exclusion from the mitzvah of Shabbos, the text should read "You did not command it. . ." Why does it instead read "You did not give it"?

If the tefillah had read "You did not command it," it would have meant only that the non-Jews are not commanded to obey the mitzvah of Shabbos. Since it reads "You did not give it," the meaning is clear that they are altogether excluded from it.

The reason for their exclusion is that the mitzvah of Shabbos is directly dependent upon the matonoh of Shabbos. Someone who has received the wonderful present of Shabbos now has the mitzvah of Shabbos, including its dinim and issurim. Since this matonoh tovah from Hashem's treasure-house was granted exclusively to Yisroel, only they are commanded about the mitzvah of Shabbos. Since Hashem did not give it to the nations of the world, they do not possess this matonoh and they lack the mitzvah altogether.

Both the din and its reason are included in the tefillah's words "You did not give it." HaKodosh Boruch Hu did not command non-Jews the mitzvah of Shabbos because that matonoh was not given to them. They are excluded from the mitzvah of Shabbos just as they are excluded from the matonoh of Shabbos. They do not even receive the reward for voluntarily doing the mitzvah (eino metzuveh ve'oseh) since they are completely unrelated to it: a non-Jew who observes the Shabbos is punishable by death.

The tefillah adds, "nor did You make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshipers of graven idols," to teach us yet another detail about the exclusion of non-Jews from Shabbos. From "You did not give it" we learn that Hashem did not directly give them Shabbos as a matonoh and mitzvah, but we might have thought it could be considered as an inheritance, something a person acquires without another specifically giving it to him or commanding him to take it. If so, the non-Jews would be able to be rewarded for observing it as eino metzuveh ve'oseh. The tefillah therefore underscores the point: "nor did You make it the inheritance, O King, of the worshipers of graven idols," to tell us that it is neither a matonoh nor a mitzvah nor even an inheritance for them.

What is the reason for non-Jews being barred from Shabbos observance, from its matonoh, from its mitzvah, from its rest, and from its inheritance? In what way is Shabbos different from all other mitzvos?

The following part of our tefillah reveals the answer to this question too: "For to Yisroel, Your people, have You given it in love." We are explicitly told that the Shabbos was given to am Yisroel and not to the other nations since it is a matonoh of love (matonoh and giving are derived from the same root in loshon kodesh). Such a present is given only to someone the giver loves: "To the seed of Yaakov, whom You have chosen." Hashem has chosen the seed of Yaakov because of His love for them, and only to am Yisroel did He give this matonoh of love.

Why does the tefillah refer to am Yisroel as the seed of Yaakov? Why are our other Patriarchs Avrohom and Yitzchok not mentioned?

"Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose his seed after them" (Devorim 4:37). The Ibn Ezra asks, why does the posuk start by mentioning "your fathers" in the plural, but finishes with "his seed" in the singular? The normal sequence would be to write "their seed."

"His seed after them," explains the Ibn Ezra, refers only to Yaakov. If the posuk mentioned "their seed" that would include eight other nations, since from Avrohom Yishmoel and his seed emerged, and from Yitzchok Esav and his seed emerged. It was only from Yaakov that only the twelve holy shevotim, the heads of Yisroel, emerged who are all beloved by Hashem. Only them, the seed of Yaakov, did Hashem chose. The fact that we alone are beloved and chosen by Hashem is also taught to us in the tefillah: "To the seed of Yaakov, whom You have chosen." Only the seed of Yaakov, and not that of Avrohom and Yitzchok, in which the offspring of Esav and Yishmoel are included, were given Shabbos, the matonoh of love.

The Midrash writes on the posuk, "For it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations" (Shemos 31:13) that our nation's relationship with Hashem can be compared to a king and a queen who are speaking together. Someone who walks between them will surely be punished with death.

Am Yisroel and HaKodosh Boruch Hu are compared to a king and queen speaking together. When a non- Jew goes in between them he is punished with death. Shabbos is the realization of "between Me and you." On Shabbos we are on that level of nearness to Hashem!

This is similar to the Mechilta's teaching excluding non-Jews from Shabbos observance--"`between Me and bnei Yisroel' and not `between Me and the non- Jews.'" This is a special exclusion referring to Shabbos, a day given to the Jewish Nation which Hashem loves. Non-Jews are not beloved in this way by HaKodosh Boruch Hu.

The same is true about the inheritance of Shabbos: the reason non-Jews are not zoche to have Shabbos as an inheritance is explicit in our davening: "With love and favor grant us Your holy Shabbos as a heritage." It is not sufficient that Shabbos was given with love to us as a matonoh; we want the inheritance to be with love and favor too. This is the essence of Shabbos: an inheritance of love and favor from HaKodosh Boruch Hu to those who observe the Shabbos. Non-Jews are not included in these levels of love and favor. They have neither a matonoh nor an inheritance of Shabbos.

Why did HaKodosh Boruch Hu just give Shabbos rest to Jews? Because "Those who sanctify Your name rest on it" (Shemoneh Esrei of Shabbos). HaKodosh Boruch Hu awarded this rest on the seventh day, which is a special creation, only to those who sanctify His name. This Shabbos rest is not an ordinary rest such as the nations have. It is a special brocho, a rest steeped in kedusha, as we mention in mincha: "a day of rest and kedusha You have given to Your people." Through this rest of kedusha one can gain the elevated qualities of a pure neshomo--"With splendor He enwrapped the day of rest. He called the Shabbos a delight" (Shacharis Shel Shabbos). This rest Hashem gave only to His people.

"Elokim blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because on it He rested from all His work which Elokim had created and performed" (Bereishis 2:3). The Ibn Ezra writes in the name of one of the Geonim that the blessing of Shabbos and its sanctity make its observers become blessed and sanctified.

End of Part I

HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira is the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Beer Yaakov and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Degel HaTorah in Eretz Yisroel

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.