In the first part of the essay about the unique qualities
of Shabbos, HaRav Shapira stressed how Shabbos and the Jewish
People enjoy a unique relationship. He explained that the
rest we have on Shabbos is a special, positive experience
that brings brocho and kedusha.
Spiritual Levels on Shabbos
The Rishonim write at length about the special qualities of
Shabbos. Rabbenu Avrohom the son of the Rambam, in Maspik
Le'Ovdei Hashem (introduction), while presenting the
first rule in avodas Hashem, writes that every
mitzvas aseih and lo sa'aseh is identical for
every Jew. No difference exists between Moshe Rabbenu,
Yehoshua bin Nun, and the most ordinary person in Am
Yisroel. Either a person fulfills or annuls the mitzvah.
No differences in the general fulfillment or annulment of
Every mitzvah, however, has endless levels according to its
inner meaning. Rabbenu Avrohom describes three levels in the
mitzvah of Shabbos. The first level is that after a person
has observed Shabbos correctly and has not profaned it, he
reflects on the reason for Shabbos -- that the heavens and
earth and all their hosts were created only during the Six
Days of Creation -- and its aim. Through this reflection he
strengthens his emunah that the world was created
ex nihilo, that absolutely nothing existed beforehand,
and that nothing came before HaKodosh Boruch Hu, Who
brings the entire Creation into existence and Who renews it
constantly. This is the first level of reflecting on the
reason of Shabbos, a general reflection about Hashem's
creation of the world.
The second level is that a person also reflects about the
many details of the Creation. He enumerates every detail in
the Creation in which the Creator's wisdom is revealed. In
addition, he thinks about what was created on each day of the
Six Days of the Creation until he realizes through these
details that Hashem created the whole world. This level is
higher than the first.
The third level -- which is the highest -- is that after one
reflects about all the above he also searches further until
he reaches true kedusha. He is so content with his
spiritual attainments that he thanks Hashem and realizes that
only Hashem gave him the intelligence he has used to see His
greatness through His creation.
This is the highest level, and it is an altogether different
level. It connects between man and Hashem. When a person
attains this level he grasps the intellectual and concrete
connection of what lies "between Me and bnei Yisroel."
He realizes that Shabbos bonds HaKodosh Boruch Hu and
Am Yisroel, just like the ties that bond a man to his
wife, as in the above example of Chazal's. Although there are
endless levels within each mitzvah, in general each Jew must
attain these three levels described by Rabbenu Avrohom. This
is the Shabbos of Rabbenu Avrohom the son of the Rambam.
Shabbos -- A Heritage for Each Person
According to the above we can reach the climax of
shleimus through Shabbos. Rabbenu Yonah writes that
the aim of tzaddikim and their sign of success is
Hashem's being pleased with them. All that they do in Olam
Hazeh is only to reach this level of rotzon
Hashem. Shabbos, which is a matonoh of love and
rotzon from Hashem can, more than anything else, help
a person to be loved by Hashem and desired by Him.
HaRav Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz writes in Lecho Dodi: "To
welcome the Shabbos come, let us go, for it is the source of
brocho." All spiritual attainments and brochos
emanate from the mitzvah of Shabbos. It leads a person who
observes it to be loved by Hashem, to splendor and
contentment, "a rest of magnanimity, a rest of truth and
faith, a rest of peace and serenity, peace and serenity and
tranquility and security, a perfect rest."
All the qualities found in other forms of kedusha and
all the sublime levels that Rabbenu Avrohom describes -- the
shleimus that Hashem wants -- are attained through
When one hears about such elevated levels of love from Hashem
and rotzon Hashem, such a tie between HaKodosh
Boruch Hu and am Yisroel, one can mistakenly think
that all this does not concern common people, and that only
the few extraordinary people, bnei aliya who labor at
ascending spiritual levels, should take interest in them. We
would think that it has nothing to do with us.
The truth, though, is that these madreigos are all
relevant to us too. These are not Kabbalistic matters that
only a few can reach and that ordinary people just believe in
their existence and nothing more. Each one of us can attain
these lofty achievements in ruchniyus.
As Rabbenu Avrohom writes, the way to do this is simply
through reflecting about the details of the Creation, how
Hashem gives us intelligence to recognize the Creator Who
created such a wonderful world. This alone is sufficient to
award a person a feeling of simcha when doing the
mitzvah of Shabbos, and it creates the connection between us
and Hashem. Doing this is not difficult at all.
The ability to raise oneself higher to attain such elevated
levels is one of the segulos of Shabbos and is
emphasized in the Torah: "However, My Shabbos shall you keep,
for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your
generations; that you may know that I am Hashem Who
sanctifies you" (Shemos 31:13). The Torah commands
this to every Jew, even the simplest. Even he must "know that
I am Hashem Who sanctifies you." On Shabbos everyone must
feel that Hashem makes him holy through His kedusha.
If the mitzvah is knowing that Hashem makes us holy, surely
Shabbos can make us feel the neshomo yeseiro that we
have on Shabbos.
My great-grandfather, the Netziv, writes in Ha'amek
Dovor that when a Jew feels the kedusha on Shabbos
and Yom Tov by himself, this shows that HaKodosh Boruch
Hu is surely helping him to become more kodosh,
since the person himself wants to be mekadesh himself
Each one of us feels on Shabbos that something has been added
to him, even if he has done nothing to attain it. The
segulah of Shabbos helps a person reach these
The Chayei Odom, who lived only about two hundred years ago,
testifies about himself (in Hilchos Shabbos) that when
he went to the mikveh on Erev Shabbos he felt
the elevation given him by the neshomo yeseiro, and he
adds that each person can feel the same.
Shabbos has the segulah all by itself to raise us to
all these madreigos. This is not one of the difficult
things to do. Each one must feel tangibly that Hashem is
sanctifying him. This is what we mean when we say at
Mincha, "may Your children recognize and know that
from You comes their rest, and through their rest they will
sanctify Your name."
We can learn something about the kedusha of Shabbos
from what the Vilna Gaon writes in his famous letter to his
family. He warns them strongly not to, cholila, speak
even one idle word on Shabbos. The Gaon cites the
Yerushalmi that Chazal barely permitted us to greet
another person with sholom on Shabbos. We see the
magnitude of kedusha on Shabbos in the fact that even
one mundane word should not be spoken during it.
In maseches Demai (ch. 4) the mishnah states
that we believe what even an am ho'oretz says when we
ask him on Shabbos if he has separated ma'aser from
his fruit, even though we cannot believe him during the rest
of the week when he says the same thing. The rishonim
explain that Shabbos is taken seriously even by an am
ho'oretz. He will not do an aveiro on Shabbos and
therefore he would not lie on Shabbos, even though he is
generally not reliable.
This is how Shabbos was once considered even by an am
ho'oretz. Even a person who would not separate
ma'aser from tevel would not lie on Shabbos.
This is similar to how we feel on Yom Kippur: we feel its
great kedusha and are careful not to say any lie
during it. This was once the level of every am
ho'oretz on Shabbos. He felt the kedusha of
Shabbos the way we today feel the kedusha of Yom
Where do we find among all the mitzvos of the Torah a single
mitzvah like this, that elevates man to such a level that he
can obtain everything he wishes: contentment, blessing,
splendor, Shabbos rest, the kedusha of Shabbos, and a
bond between man and Hashem? What more can a person wish?
It is, however, obvious that such elevation through the
neshomo yeseiro cannot be achieved by sitting idle.
The most proper way to gain such elevation is through Torah
study. Chazal say that the Torah asked HaKodosh Boruch
Hu: "When will bnei Yisroel, who are occupied with
their livelihoods, find time to study Torah?" HaKodosh
Boruch Hu answered: "Am Yisroel's mate when they
study Torah is the Shabbos." Shabbos is the special day when
we can study Torah.
What is meant by Chazal that Shabbos is the mate of bnei
Yisroel so that they can study Torah? Why is it not
enough for them to have free time on Shabbos when they do not
work so they can study Torah? The meaning of Shabbos being
the "mate" of the Jewish Nation is that the most proper thing
to do on Shabbos is studying Torah. This is because the
special segulah of Shabbos is Torah study.
This can be explained as follows: Shabbos is a day of
menuchah for the nefesh, and Chazal write that
the Torah too is menuchah for the nefesh. "He
saw that rest was good and he bowed his shoulder to bear"
(Bereishis 49:14). Chazal write in the Midrash
(and the same is written in the Targum Yonoson) that
this posuk refers to Torah. Although one has to "bow
his shoulder to bear" a burden, because studying Torah is a
heavy yoke, nevertheless suffering the yoke of the Torah is a
person's real menuchah -- "He saw that the rest was
good." The yoke of Torah is his rest.
"He gives strength to the tired" (Yeshaya 40:29). The
Targum Yonoson explains that HaKodosh Boruch Hu
gives renewed strength to someone who is tired because he has
labored over the Torah. What is this strength? The ability to
understand the sugya resulting from his exerting
himself in Torah study, which causes him simcha. This
is the strength that he receives.
The Netziv writes in the introduction to his commentary on
the She'iltos that Yeshaya in the above posuk
is telling us that the menuchah needed by talmidei
chachomim is not for their body's sake. On the contrary,
the menuchah consists of toiling over the Torah. From
such toil he receives his rest. The strength that one gains
from the simcha after one understands the Torah is the
We must be aware that this is not just rhetoric. This is
reality! True menuchah is only the menuchah of
the nefesh which we receive after toiling over Torah.
Someone who thinks that he can arrive at menuchah
through giving his body rest is greatly mistaken. This is
Someone who accustoms himself to rest in Olam Hazeh is
mistaken because in Olam Hazeh no rest exists. In
Olam Hazeh we find only matters that bother us from
morning to night. Every day, every week, and every month we
encounter new problems. If a person wants to wait until he
has quiet, menuchah for his body, and then he will
start to study Torah, who knows if he will ever be
zoche to this?
A person's avoda is to make his Torah study so fixed
that no distractions or pressure of work will stop him from
keeping his set time for studying Torah. If he accustoms
himself to resting he will never be able to study Torah.
This can be compared to combat soldiers. During their basic
training they are placed under the most difficult conditions:
in deserts, without water, climbing steep mountains, and
facing other obstacles. This is done so that when the battle
comes nothing will disturb them. Even in the worst conditions
a person must be able to vanquish the enemy.
The same is true of a ben Torah: he must accustom
himself to letting no reasons, no needs of the body, prevent
him from reaching his main aspiration of studying Torah. This
is the avoda of true menuchah.
Shabbos is therefore not only a day free from work on which
one can study Torah. Studying Torah on Shabbos has the
special quality of menuchah, because the nefesh
on Shabbos combines with the special quality of Torah study
that is also menuchah for the nefesh. This is
the most proper shidduch: Torah and Shabbos. When
studying on Shabbos a person receives the blessing of Shabbos
in his Torah and what he studies during the week is also
blessed because of it. This is the avoda of studying
Torah on Shabbos.
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.