Saturday, February 14, 2009

Weekly E*Torah by Rabbi Avrohom Altein

Real Relaxation!

This Shabbat, we read the "Ten Commandments".  One of the most important of these commandments is observing the Shabbat. Shabbat provides us with relaxation and good food, but more importantly it is a time to connect with the more spiritual side of our lives and spend time in prayer and study.
 
Most of us know that a Jew is not supposed to work on Shabbat, but few are aware that a Shabbat-observant Jew would refuse to drive a car, or switch on a light switch, on Shabbat.  The question is obvious, isn't it much more work to walk a half-hour to synagogue than driving a car? And what work is there in turning on a light switch?
 
The explanation to these and similar questions is that the Torah does not prohibit work on Shabbat!  The Hebrew equivalent of not working would be "Lo Taavod!" But that is not what the Torah says. Instead, the fourth commandment reads, "Lo Taase Melacha." An accurate translation to English would be, "Do not create a crafted product."
 
G-d created the world in six days, but on the seventh He ceased building and creating, and withdrew into himself. That is what we are meant to do as well. During the six days of the week, we too build and create; we involve ourselves with the world, accomplishing and producing. On Shabbat, though, we withdraw and contemplate our own souls and purpose in life.
 
So, it is not work that is prohibited, but the building and creating as part of our involvement with the world.  Baking, for example, is forbidden on Shabbat because it creates bread; writing creates letters and pictures; and the car ignition and the light switch create fire and light. A Jew needs to set aside one day each week when all outside affairs are put aside; a space and time to discover his own Neshama, the Jewish soul. That is what the Shabbat is all about.
 
There is an added fantastic benefit to Shabbat. Nowadays, the family unit is under tremendous pressure. Each individual is preoccupied and it is rare that all family members share time together. And even when they do, their mood is hardly relaxed.
 
The Friday night Shabbat table is great at cementing family relationships. Imagine the entire family sitting together, relaxing, enjoying, and focusing on the more important elements of life - the spiritual side of things.  Nothing in the world can duplicate the serenity and relaxed atmosphere of the Shabbat candles, the Kiddush cup, the Shabbat Challah, and the Shabbat table.

Weekly Smile 
Yes, You Will!

  People get caught up in the rat race of making money and lose track of their families and their own soul. Only when there is trouble (tzores), do they visit a synagogue. Isn't it much better to do it out of pleasure than out of desperation?
 
An inspector with Canada Revenue walks into a syna­gogue and asks to see the rabbi. He is shown into the rabbi's study and offered a seat.
 
"Rabbi," says the inspector. "A member of your syna­gogue, a Mr. Klutz, states on his tax return that he has donated $100,000 to your synagogue. Is that correct?"
 
The rabbi answers, "Yes, he will."

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