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22 Adar II 5760 - March 29, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Light the Lamp of Shabbos!

by HaRav Shmuel Carlebach

An excerpt from Koros Boteinu Arozim written by HaRav Shmuel Carlebach, zt"l

Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 60:16) revealed to us the three unique characteristics of Soroh Imeinu's tent: a lamp was lit in it constantly from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos, a cloud hovered over the doorway, and there was always a blessing in the dough she kneaded. Those special features ceased when she passed away and only returned to the home when Rivka married Yitzchok.

We were not told this just to let us know some information about Soroh and Rivka. We must make efforts to bring such brochos into our own tents as well. We must first reflect on what these brochos mean, what they show us, and how we can attain them and reach that same brilliance, that same brocho and kedusha. [Here we discuss the first of these traits.]

The more we ponder this short saying of Chazal's the more wonders we see in avodas Hashem and in the way a Jewish home should be built.

It is quite clear that the abovementioned lit lamp alludes to Torah study, to gaining knowledge of the Torah's wisdom, and to enjoying the Torah's light. However the question immediately arises: Who is commanded to study Torah? Talmud Torah is an obligation for men and not for women! Men are told to "meditate on [the Torah's words] day and night" (Yehoshua 1:8). A woman is exempt from the obligation to study Torah, and actually should not study Torah more than to learn how to do mitzvos correctly, to correct her character traits, and to shape her hashkofos about what is happening in life and in the world. She is not required to engage in the intricacies of Torah study and will not be rewarded for doing so.

It is reasonable to expect that the lit lamp should have been in the tent of Avrohom Ovinu and not in that of Soroh Imeinu. It was in Avrohom Ovinu's tent that the light of Torah should have burnt always. How is it possible that with Soroh Imeinu's death this Divine sign disappeared? Why was the Torah study of Avrohom and Yitzchok, our Patriarchs, insufficient to make the lamp remain lit? Why only when Rivka entered the tent did the lamp burn again from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos?

What also is the significance of Soroh's lamp burning the whole week? What does this teach us? It is quite natural that as long as some oil remains a lamp burns and gives light, but the moment the oil is used up the lamp goes out. What is the significance of the set time, from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos?

The set amount of time for the lamp's burning shows that there was a need to renew and refresh the lamp periodically. There was no unending light; every so often it was necessary to rekindle the lamp. Why was this set time measured from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos? Why was it not set from motzei Shabbos to motzei Shabbos, since the new week starts from Sunday and not from Shabbos? "And there was evening and there was morning, one day" (Bereishis 1:5) refers to Sunday, but Shabbos is the seventh day in the week. Why, then, was the lamp lit on erev Shabbos?

It is impossible to say that this refers to the Shabbos lights, whose time to be kindled is indeed on erev Shabbos, since they have no reason to remain lit after leil Shabbos. Even on Shabbos itself, during the day, there is no hiddur for them to burn. What is suggested by this lamp burning from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos?

"For a mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23). Just as the lamp, until it is kindled and gives light, has not fulfilled its purpose, so a mitzvah without Torah is not a mitzvah but only pure habit. Just as light can be radiated only by a lamp, so does the Torah need mitzvos, and without mitzvos the Torah loses its connection to reality. Also, the purpose of the lamp is its light, and the objective of a mitzvah is the Torah within it.

There are two parts in avodas Hashem: the practical part and the spiritual part. The practical part includes all details of how to fulfill the mitzvos aseih and all the ways of being mindful not to contravene mitzvos lo sa'aseih. In addition, avodas Hashem involves doing what a person is obligated to do and executing it correctly and precisely. We must refrain from doing what we have been commanded not to do, and this care must also be wielded in an exact and correct fashion, without any additions or cutbacks.

The spiritual part is our awareness that all the mitzvos that we perform are avodas Hashem; this is usually called kavono. We should draw out from each Divine command its four distinct parts: the pshat (the plain meaning), the remez (the allusions), the drash (what is expounded from it), and its sod (the esoteric meanings). Each person, when carrying out mitzvos, should draw upon these elements of avodas Hashem according to his individual level in wisdom, Torah, yiras Shomayim and kedusha.

Since the Torah is a Toras Ho'odom, there is no area in life, nothing done in life, no temptation, no desire, that HaKodosh Boruch Hu did not instruct us about: what to do about it, whether or not to do it and when to do it, what resources and weight to put into its performance, and what to refrain from doing and how to refrain from it. The Torah even guides us about how to develop the needed awareness so that we will not fail in life's trials.

Performance of mitzvos without the Torah's light illuminating them is like a body without a neshomo. It is possible that a person will do what is correct, but because of his being so accustomed to constantly doing mitzvos what he does will become something done out of sheer habit. That is not avodas Hashem. It is only a religious ritual, just like those that every nation carries out as their religion requires. People merely cling to these customs more or less, according to what is customary in that place and time.

It is even possible that such people will observe what they are accustomed to do with exceptional zealotry, but according to the Torah understanding, what they are doing cannot be considered avodas Hashem. Those people are carrying out acts through which they are creating their faith and the object of their faith. They are building temples and are conducting ceremonies for it. However, the Jew's entire avodas Hashem is to build and elevate himself, to perfect himself so he will realize what Hashem wants from him.

A Jew's tefillah is not an offering, an expression of gratitude or a series of requests to some higher power. It is intended to perfect the Jew himself, to truly subjugate his behavior to Hashem's will and his hopes and requests to Hashem's surveillance. The verb meaning "praying" -- mispallel -- is in the reflexive grammatical form -- binyan hispa'el -- and not in the active grammatical form -- binyan kal, since a Jew does not relay offerings to HaKodosh Boruch Hu but rather subjugates himself through his tefillah and becomes an oveid Hashem.

Since, as we have mentioned, everything we do in avodas Hashem is actually a mitzvah from Hashem, the danger exists that we will act according to habit. Since we become accustomed to acting in a regular way, always doing mitzvos, all of our avodas Hashem is likely to become transformed into something similar to non-Jewish rituals, Rachmono litzlan. Although "the mitzvah is a lamp," the aspect of "the Torah is light" will be lacking. To the degree that a person's acts are incorporated in his daily schedule and repeated constantly, the danger of doing them by rote increases.

This was the unique quality of Soroh Imeinu. She bequeathed to us a singular trait that has remained with Klal Yisroel throughout history. "Her lamp burned from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos." In her house there was no such thing as having "the mitzvah is a lamp" without also having "the Torah is light." The mitzvos performed in her house were done as if they were brand new, with full awareness of their objective. Such a fulfillment of Hashem's will was protected from becoming habit, and fully shielded from the danger of becoming a mere ritual. Her lamp was forever lit. The "mitzvah is a lamp" and it was lit with the Torah's light.

It is, however, not enough that Chazal have revealed to us the secret of Soroh Imeinu's vitality in her avodas Hashem of performing mitzvos. Although we know that what she did was never merely habit, that the Torah's light burnt in all she did at home, we must know how she attained this lofty level.

An individual's eish kodesh, spiritual flame, is normally cooled down after he has been doing mitzvos regularly for a while. Where is the force that can awaken us, which can assist us in preventing what we do from becoming profane instead of kodesh? Even if what we do is done precisely according to halocho it can still become profane. The kedusha of the Torah's light is liable to become extinguished without our even being aware that this is happening. The mitzvah that we did yesterday and the day before is still physically done in the exact same way. The avoda that should be instilled in it, the avodas Hashem that should be in every mitzvah, is what slowly becomes missing. Where is the catalyst that will propel us to illuminate our mitzvos with "the Torah is a light"? How can we renew ourselves each time so that we will not fall into the clutch of habit? How can we elevate the profane to kodesh and protect the kodesh so that it will not become chulin?

"A Lamp Lit From Erev Shabbos to Erev Shabbos"

Chazal showed us how Soroh Imeinu revealed the key to anchoring the flame of Torah permanently in our lamp of mitzvah. She has taught us the opportunities to elevate all of our profane acts for avodas hakodesh. We now know how a Jew who is an oveid Hashem elevates all that he does during his life. It is done through erev Shabbos.

On Shabbos, and through the preparations for Shabbos on the sixth day of the week, all the chulin of a person's life is uplifted. All that he does on erev Shabbos becomes mitzvos.

"Rav Safra would prepare an animal's head for the Shabbos meal. Rovo would salt the fish. Rav Huna would kindle the lights. Rav Popo would braid the wicks. Rav Chisda would slice the beets. Raboh and Rav Yosef would cut wood for cooking. Rav Zeira would light the fire in the oven. Rav Ami and Rav Asi would carry clothes and delicacies on their shoulders, like a person who is going to greet his Rav at his house and is showing his Rav how important he is to him, how much he is concerned about his honor, and how much he wants to bother for him." (Shabbos 119).

There is a good reason Chazal tell us all the details of what the Amoraim did for Shabbos. They are instructing us that the most simple and everyday act becomes a display of avodas Hashem when it is done for the honor of Shabbos.

Preparing for Shabbos translates all the components of life onto a level that elevates them from chol to kodesh.

When one dresses lichvod Shabbos, one's entire wardrobe has another aim, another value. Each piece of clothing is measured according to its suitability for Shabbos.

The entire concept of food changes completely for a Jew when Shabbos arrives. On Shabbos, food changes from something mundane and attains the level of a mitzvah. "Eat sumptuously and drink sweet beverages, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to Hashem; for the joy of Hashem is your strength" (Nechemia 8:10).

Usually a person who takes pleasure in eating choice food becomes like an animal. On the other hand, for a Jew the entire concept of eating and fine condiments becomes avodas hakodesh when it is used for Shabbos.

The whole way a house is run becomes the regulation of a Mishkan for avodas Hashem. Expensive furniture cannot turn a room into a good room. This can be done only through Shabbos.

Not only does the segulah of Shabbos elevate our clothing, food, and dwelling; if we think deeply about this we will understand that it uplifts all mundane affairs. We shine our shoes for Shabbos, mop the floor lichvod Shabbos, and bathe to be clean for Shabbos. On Shabbos we have to speak differently than during the week. We can even believe an am ho'oretz on Shabbos, since the awe of Shabbos ensures that he speaks the truth. In the zechus of Shabbos our whole attitude to monetary affairs changes. The whole concept of rest becomes a "rest of truth and emunah." A man's whole way of life becomes elevated and holy through the Shabbos.

Soroh's lamp burned from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos. That same principle -- kindling the lamp of the mitzvah with the light of the Torah -- will renew, awaken, and penetrate deeply into every aspect of life, from erev Shabbos to the next erev Shabbos. It will implant within us the deep understanding of life, that "for six days Hashem worked and on the seventh day He rested," and that everything comes from Hashem and what we are lacking is for our benefit.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu gave us the Shabbos and also commanded us to prepare for the Shabbos. To the same degree that we prepare for the Shabbos, so does the Shabbos change us. If we accept the Shabbos, the Shabbos accepts our thoughts, deeds, initiatives, and world outlooks, and elevates them from the mundane to the holy in all our ways.

This is the "lighting of the lamp" that consecrates and elevates all of life's experiences, the entire joy of living, the whole simcha of married life, the happiness of, "Your children are like olive plants around about your table" (Tehillim 128:3) and "May Elokim make you as Ephraim and as Menasheh" (Bereishis 28:20). The lighting of the lamp makes holy the joy of someone who is satisfied with what he already has. Through the Shabbos, pleasure penetrates into one's heart and into the Jewish home. With good reason a baal habayis says on Shabbos night before going to shul: "Light the lamp!"

Through "lighting the lamp" a Jewish woman sanctifies her house and creates a unique atmosphere for her family. A Jew can now differentiate between kodesh and chol, light and darkness, Yisroel and the nations. This lighting, that burns from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos, hallows the six days of the week.

It is told in a tzaddik's name that he would say every Shabbos: "There was never such a Shabbos and will never again be one like this." According to what we have written, that can be understood: Each Shabbos awards a new and additional light, an added kedusha, to all the previous days of Shabbos. On this Shabbos the Torah sheds another beam of light, one more sublime than that of all former days of Shabbos. This new light will join with the former lights when the next Shabbos comes, since the previous lamp burned all week, from the erev Shabbos of a week ago; so therefore, "Light the lamp."

HaRav Shmuel Carlebach zt'l was a renowned educator and principal of the Or HaChaim Girl's Seminary in Bnei Brak. He passed away on the nineteenth of Shevat, 5759.

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