Bringing the Shabbos Spirit Into the Week

The Journey to Unity - 71

Bringing the Shabbos Spirit Into the Week:

The Talmud teaches that during the morning service in the Holy Temple, the Levites chanted a special psalm which was suited to the significance of each day of the week (Mishna Tamid 7:4). As a memorial to the Temple service, these seven psalms have been incorporated into the concluding prayers of our daily morning service, and the recitation of each psalm on its appropriate day includes an introductory reminder that the Levites chanted this psalm in the Temple. For example, on the first day of the week (which the western world calls "Sunday"), we introduce the psalm of this day with the following statement: "Today is the first weekday of the Shabbos, on which the Levites would recite in the Holy Temple":

Dear Friends,

The psalm of the first day of the week opens with the following words:

"By David, A Psalm. To the Compassionate One belongs the earth and its fullness, the inhabited land and those who dwell in it." (Psalm 24:1)

Why, on the first weekday after Shabbos, do we chant a psalm which emphasizes that everything and everyone on earth belongs to the Compassionate One? As we discussed in our previous three letters, the theme of the above verse is also the theme of Shabbos! I would therefore like to suggest that this theme was chosen for the first day of the week in order to help us bring the spirit of Shabbos into the week. We especially need to remember the elevating message of Shabbos when we begin our week, as we once again get involved in material pursuits which also give us a sense of power and control. As we know so well, this sense of power and control can lead to individual and social selfishness. The psalm for this day therefore reminds us that everyone and everything - including "the inhabited land and those who dwell in it" - belong to the Compassionate One. In this way, we will also remember the following related message:

"Mine is the silver, and Mine is the gold - the word of the Compassionate One, God of all the hosts of creation." (Haggai 2:8)

We are to bring the spirit of Shabbos into the week by remembering that we are only the custodians, and not the owners of the resources that were granted to us by the Compassionate One. As the Tur, one of the great codifiers of Torah law, writes:

"A person should not allow in his heart the thought, 'How can I cause myself a loss of money by giving to the poor?' For he should know that the money is not his, as it is deposited with him in order that he should do the will of the One Who placed it with him. And it is His will that it be shared with the poor." (Yoreh Deah 247:3 - the Laws of Tzedakah)

Extending the spirit of Shabbos into the week is an ancient Jewish practice, which is why we do not begin the weekday evening prayers the second that Shabbos is officially over. According to halacha (the Torah path), we are to wait, at the very least, a brief period after the Shabbos is over before beginning the prayers and tasks of the week (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 293:1). In this way, we take a portion of the weekday period and turn it into "Shabbos."

Although the Shabbos Queen is scheduled to depart at a certain hour, we ask her to delay her departure - even for a minute - so that her spirit can influence the coming week. For the more we bring her spirit into the week, the closer we become to the messianic age which will be known as "the Day that is entirely Shabbos and tranquility" (Mishna Tamid 7:4).

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch elaborates on this idea in his classical work "Horeb" - a book which explores the ethical and spiritual significance of the mitzvos of the Torah. He explains that the mitzvah to extend Shabbos into the week applies not only to the new week, but also to the old week, which is why we begin to celebrate Shabbos even before it officially begins. Rabbi Hirsch writes:

"It is above all your duty not to limit the influence of the Sabbath to the short period of its duration but to let its holiness overflow into the week. This means that you must in fact somewhat extend the celebration of the Sabbath beyond its prescribed period, adding to it, both before and after, a little of the working days. In this way you declare that the Sabbath does not stand isolated, as if your time was, so to speak, divided into one part in which you live for God and another in which you live for yourself alone. On the contrary, your working days, past and future, must be suffused with the spirit of the Sabbath. Thus will your workaday week itself in time become transformed, as it were, into a Sabbath, because you will be doing your work only in the Sabbath spirit; thus, its holiness must consequently sanctify you. This additional boon of the Sabbath is known as Tosafah." (chapter 25, paragraph 194)

Rabbi Hirsch also refers to another traditional practice which helps us to bring the spirit of Shabbos into the week. According to halacha, we are to have a festive meal on Saturday night after the Shabbos has departed. This meal is known as the "Melava Malka" - the Escorting of the Queen. Just as there is a mitzvah to escort a guest part of the way when he or she leaves your home, so too there is a mitzvah to escort the Shabbos Queen Who is now departing. This meal is often accompanied by singing, dancing, words of Torah, and the telling of stories in the spirit of the Torah. Although we are sad that the Shabbos has departed, we rejoice in the awareness that Shabbos will return to us; moreover, through the Melava Malka celebration, we bring some of the Shabbos spirit into the week.


Yosef Hakohen (See below)

A Related Teaching:

Our father, Avraham, taught us to bring the Shabbos spirit into the week through performing acts of tzedekah. The mandate of tzedakah that he gave over to us is mentioned in the following verse where the Compassionate One describes His loving relationship with our father, Avraham: "For I have loved him because he commands his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Compassionate One to do tzedakah and justice" (Genesis 18:19). In each generation, we are to rediscover "the way of the Compassionate One to do tzedakah and justice"; moreover, one of the ways in which we do this is by bringing the altruistic spirit of Shabbos into the week. An allusion to this idea appears in the following words from a song which many Jews, especially Chassidim, sing at the Friday night Shabbos table:

Seekers of the Compassionate One, seed of Avraham His beloved, Who delay departing from the Shabbos and Who rush to enter." (Kol Mekadesh)

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