Enduring Impact of Shabbat

Rav Eli Mansour (DailyHalacha.com) posted the following thought this week. For more of his Torah, see his website.

Parashat Bamidbar describes Bene Yisrael’s formation as they traveled through the wilderness. They did not travel arbitrarily or haphazardly, with everybody situating himself wherever he saw fit. God presented to Moshe very detailed instructions concerning the proper formation, emphasizing that this formation had to remain consistent during travel and encampment: “Just as they encamp – so shall they travel” (2:17). The arrangement Bene Yisrael followed when they encamped was required also during travel.

Some Rabbis suggested that underlying this verse is a profound concept relevant to the observance of Shabbat, namely, the impact it can have upon the other six days of the week.

In general society, Saturday is viewed and treated as just another Sunday; these two days together comprise “the weekend,” a time to just relax, unwind, and do nothing of great importance. Our Shabbat, however, differs fundamentally, in both form and substance, from Sunday. Shabbat is not a day of recreation and entertainment; it is a time for religious growth and enhancing one’s relationship with God. Judaism designates one day a week as a time for studying Torah, reading Torah literature, participating in Torah classes, sharing words of Torah with our children at the Shabbat table, and singing the beautiful “Pizmonim.” Halacha certainly requires wearing fine clothing and eating fine foods, but these do not signify the essence of the day, which relates to the internal process of developing oneself spiritually and drawing closer to his Creator.

The reason for this observance of Shabbat can be found in a deeper reading of the aforementioned verse: “Just as they encamp – so shall they travel.” The nature and quality of one’s “encampment,” his day of rest when he pauses from the frantic pursuit of a livelihood that occupies him throughout the week, will determine the way he “travels” during the next six days. If a person spends Shabbat simply indulging in food and sitting around idly, then it cannot possibly have any kind of spiritual impact upon the coming week. The next six days will be just like his Shabbat – mundane and bereft of religious meaning. If, however, one spends Shabbat as a day of spiritual growth, then this is how he will “travel” during the coming week. The rest of the week, too, will assume a meaningful spiritual quality. The nature of one’s Shabbat observance has the capacity to provide a person with enough religious vitality to last throughout the entire week.


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