Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 3 June 2023 / 14 Sivan 5783

Kiddush (Part 4): Unity through Separation

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“Although you may enjoy the rest and the tranquility of Shabbat, have in mind that you are not observing the day for your own pleasure; rather to honor the One who commanded you to do so.”

Sefat Emet (Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter)

Kiddush continues: “Blessed are you, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, took pleasure in us, and with love and favor gave us His holy Shabbat as a heritage, as a remembrance of creation.”

In reference to the Festivals, Hashem commands us to designate the “holy convocations.” (Vayikra 23:2) As Nachmanides writes, we are instructed to assemble together to praise Hashem and to eat special meals in honor of the holiness of the day. In addition, the Midrash explains that the Festivals are designated by the actions of the Jewish nation. In Temple times, witnesses would travel to Yerushalayim to testify having seen the new moon. If their testimony was accepted by the Sanhedrin, a new month would be declared. Designating the new month automatically designated the time of the Festivals as well because each Festival belongs to a specific month. In effect, the Jewish People were intrinsically involved in establishing both the months and the Festivals. Once the month was verified, the Festival belonging to it was determined as well.

However, in the very next verse, which refers to Shabbat, the Torah simply states that Shabbat is a “holy convocation.” There is no command to designate and appoint it as such. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that Shabbat is different from the Festivals. Shabbat was designated by Hashem during the Creation, and, as such, there is no necessity for a declaration to be made by human beings. Rather, from the very first Shabbat in history, every seventh day is filled with innate Kedusha that was implanted in it by Hashem. As such, Shabbat serves as a remembrance that Hashem did not just create our world, but that He continues to sustain it physically and spiritually. Our task, therefore, is not to designate the Kedusha of Shabbat, but, rather, to recognize its Kedusha and bring it into our lives. Therefore, every week when we observe Shabbat, we affirm our belief that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky said that many years ago he met a lonely old Jew with a long white beard in a nursing home in Mountain Brook, Alabama. The lonely man told Rabbi Kotlarsky that his children had left him there and didn’t care about him. Rabbi Kotlarsky said that he remembers the old man’s words: “My Zeidie (grandfather) used to call Shabbat the Heilige Shabbos Kodesh. My father called it Shabbos Kodesh. I call it Shabbos. My children call it Saturday and their children call it the weekend. I shudder to think what their children will call it.”

To be continued…

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