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Parshas Yisro: Welcoming Shabbos

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

“Remember the Shabbos day, to sanctify it

(Shemos 20:8)

 “In Avos we learn: ‘Rabi Yossi says: Moshe ascended on the second day and descended on the third day, and ascended and descended on the fourth day. He descended and did not ascend again … on the fifth day he built a mizbeiyach and brought a korban, and on the sixth he did not have time.

‘Why not? Was he occupied with Torah learning? No. He was busy with the toil of Shabbos preparations.’

This idea is astounding. We want to understand why Moshe did not go up to Heaven and why the Torah was not given on that day, and one of the opinions is that Moshe Rabbeinu was busy. What was he occupied with? The toil of preparing for Shabbos.” (Birchas Mordechai, Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi) 

The toil of Shabbos preparations.

Who knows the toil better than us women? With all due respect to the helpful husband who buys the chicken, the well-meaning teenager who washes the floor and all the other helpers … the burden of Shabbos preparations is exclusively ours.

The preparations begin with my married daughter’s phone call letting me know she’s coming, or my parents calling to invite us to them. Shop, shop, and shop again, bake, bake, and bake some more, clean the kitchen, make the salads, clean the kitchen, bake the challos, clean the kitchen though the rest of the house is desperate for a makeover, set the table, Shabbos clothes for everyone — an ironed shirt for Shloimy, where’s Sari’s matching ponytail holder? Finish those showers already, come on, Shabbos can’t come into such a messy room. Oy, no more kugel! The lettuce! It still needs to be checked, and we’re down to the wire.…

Baruch Hashem. Shabbos is here.

Lehadlik ner shel Shabbos.” It was worth every drop of effort.

 “What were Moshe Rabbeinu’s preparations? How did his Erev Shabbos look? What was it that anchored him to the material world? The toil of Shabbos. Unbelievable.

“The whole of creation holds back from achieving the otherworldly sphere of ‘after Matan Torah.’ The entire Jewish nation is assembled around Har Sinai, waiting to receive the Torah — and everything is delayed because of Shabbos preparations.

“Wasn’t the mahn on every Jew’s doorstep? There was no shopping to be done on the second day of shloshes yemei hahagbalah, everyone was pure and holy … and still they were busy with Shabbos preparations? What type of preparations is the Mishnah referring to?

“They were preparing themselves spiritually on a deep inner level. Their ‘toil’ was that of the neshamah and soul. Shabbos Kodesh was approaching, and their neshamos had to be cleansed and purified.

“As we have mentioned before, our emotions are deadened and our awareness dulled. In our ignorance, we do not understand that receiving Shabbos requires us to prepare vessels to take in and embrace the holy bounty that Shabbos brings. Moshe Rabbeinu realized that preparing himself for Shabbos was more important than ascending to Shamayim and dwelling with Heavenly angels before Hashem.” (ibid.) 

Shabbos brings a neshamah yeseirah that resides within us. It’s a powerhouse of kedushah that spills over into the entire week. We have the key to draw from endless wellsprings of purity — if we would only prepare a vessel; if we would only include some spiritual preparations; if we’d only give a thought to the Queen approaching our gate. If we would only remember to say “l’kavod Shabbos kodesh” as we beat the eggs for the cake.

Let’s remember this when we sit on the couch on the afternoon of that magical day, wondering if we should open a newspaper or a Tehillim, deliberating between another 15 minutes of rest or davening Minchah.

 “Shabbos is a boundless treasure of emotions and yearning. Every moment of Shabbos inspires kedushah. What can compare to it? These treasures require a storehouse, and that storehouse is our soul. Our souls were designed for this purpose. All we need to do is refrain from locking up our hearts, we need to throw open our gates and invite Shabbos to enter into our inner selves. This is our preparation for Shabbos, this is our acceptance of Shabbos, and this was Moshe Rabbeinu’s preparation for Shabbos. Let’s listen. Let’s prepare our vessels to absorb the bounty” (Birchas Mordechai). 


 Moshe Rabbeinu realized that preparing himself for Shabbos was more important than ascending to Shamayim and dwelling with Heavenly angels 

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