Gleaned from the Sfas Emes

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Parshas B’reishis

The Holiness of Shabbos

G-d blesses the seventh day...

"And G-d blessed the seventh day and hallowed it. Because in it, He rested from all His work which He created to do." (2:3)

This verse states that G-d's resting on the seventh day is the cause for its blessing and sanctification. (And G-d blessed the seventh day and hallowed it. "Because" in it, He rested). Why is this so? What is there about G-d's resting that brings holiness and blessing?

Creative work entails the transfer of a part of the creator into that which is being created. For example, a writer leaves an impression of his efforts (an expression of his essence) in whatever he writes; a builder leaves an impression of his efforts (an expression of his essence) in the buildings he builds. That which was previously in the writer or builder, has flowed out - has been expressed from him and impressed elsewhere. This is hinted in the Hebrew word for creating, ba’ra which contains the Aramaic word bar, meaning outside. That which is created is a part of the creator - which is now outside of him. G-d's Creation of the world may be understood as an emanation of His holiness, from within Himself (so to speak) to outside Himself (so to speak). Indeed, in kabbalistic and chassidic thought, there is much discussion about 'sparks' of G-d's Holiness in our world.

On the seventh day, however, He rested. There was no creation, no emanation of G-d's Holiness. It remained, so to speak, totally Within. Consequently, on the seventh day, His sanctity and blessing is perceived as being greater than during the other six days, when there is an outflow of His holiness.

Furthermore, since G-d rested from all his work, and His Will is not to create on the seventh day, we, too, are prohibited from creative activity on Shabbos. This is not only because G-d's chosen People must emulate His Ways, but because each Jew contains within him a chalek aloka me’ma’al, an aspect of G-d (Iyov, 31:2). Since G-d does not wish His creativity to be expressed on Shabbos, we must keep that G-dly Holiness within us; His creativity may not be extended by us into the physical world.

This gives us a better understanding of the neshoma yesairah (which we receive each Shabbos - Baitza 15a). It is not an additional soul, but an expanded soul. A Jew's soul - that aspect of G-d which is within him - is fuller, is increased, on Shabbos. Since there is no spiritual outflow from G-d on Shabbos - we, so to speak, 'contain' 'more' of Him. (Sfas Emes, B’reishis 5654)

Shabbos, when creative holiness must remain totally within, is a time conducive to spiritual development - through more Torah study, special devotion in prayer, and deep reflection on our deeds and our relationship with G-d and man. This is not only because there is more time for this on Shabbos, but - more importantly - because our spiritual faculties are enhanced on this day of heightened holiness and greater spiritual receptivity.


"Gleaned From the Sfas Emes"- excerpts adapted from a soon to published book, G-d Willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of "The Sfas Emes Haggadah"(Targum Press) and "Kasheleg Yalbinu", a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.


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