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, we chant the psalm for each day at the conclusion of our daily morning service. The psalm of the first day of the week opens with these 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 previous letters, the theme of the above verse is also the theme of Shabbos – the sacred day which reminds us that we are not the owners and sovereigns of the earth. 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 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 belong to the Compassionate One.
Extending the spirit of Shabbos into the week is expressed in the “halacha” – the steps on the Torah path. According to halacha, 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! In fact, the requirement 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 observe Shabbos even before it officially begins.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch discusses the deeper significance of this halacha in his classical work “Horeb” - a book which explores the ethical and spiritual significance of the mitzvos of the Torah. 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)
When we bring Shabbos into the week, we are getting ready for the future age, which our tradition refers to as, “The Day that is entirely Shabbos and tranquility” (Mishnah Tamid 7:4).
Yosef Hakohen (See below)
A Related Teaching:
Shabbos is also known as “the Shabbos Queen.” For example, the Talmud states that Rabbi Chaninah would welcome the approaching Shabbos by saying, “Come, let us go and greet the Shabbos Queen” (Shabbos 119a). In this spirit, we joyously welcome the arrival of the Shabbos Queen through the psalms and prayers of the special service known as “Kabolas Shabbos” – the Welcoming of Shabbos.
When the Shabbos Queen departs on Saturday night, and the weekday begins, we have a special meal which is known as the “Melava Malkah” - the Escorting of the Queen. Just as we are to escort a guest part of the way when he or she leaves our home, so too, we are to escort the departing Shabbos Queen. This meal is often accompanied by singing, dancing, words of Torah, and the telling of stories in the spirit of the Torah.
Although Shabbos has departed, we rejoice in the awareness that Shabbos will return to us; moreover, through the Melava Malkah celebration, we bring some of the Shabbos spirit into the week.