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It’s wild to me to think how some folks don’t know the true weekly epicness that is Shabbat. But like much in life, so much of its preciousness remains concealed until each person pushes through their own perceptions to reveal the truth that awaits. Cultivating a community that we feel is ours is key in feeling one with sacred spaces. Doing so often requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone and either inviting people to create the space, or inviting oneself into others’ spaces so that they become our own. 

When we haven’t done that yet, or don’t feel motivated enough to do so, we inevitably feel disconnected from the commandments as a celebration and feel them more as obligations. 

So, how do we elevate the sacred moments and tap into the beauty and joy that lies within? It’s always a mix of action and education– educating oneself on what the ritual entails and taking action to follow the rituals so that we can access the potent power of feeling that comes with being grounded and unified with oneself, with each other, and most importantly with our Source, Hashem. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, we are commanded to keep the Shabbat, which is the only Jewish ritual mentioned in the Ten Commandments and the one commandment mentioned in the Torah more than any other. There is no more elevated bridge between this world and the next; it is the finite time and space where our soul feels tapped into the infinite. Its splendor is ineffable. We read, “Hashem said to Moshe, saying: And you, speak to the children of Israel saying: ‘Just observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations to know that I am Hashem, Who sanctifies you.”1  Rashi adds, “And although I charged you to command them concerning the work of the Mishkan… do not view things so lightly as to push aside the Shabbat because of that work.”2  It is written, Shabbat Shabbaton, the repetitive term indicates the importance and the level of rest in mind. The Hebrew word Nofesh, ‘resting’, is related to Nefesh, ‘spirit’.

photo of me at my Savta’s house in Ramat Gan at my Yemenite henna ceremony.

Hashem created the world in six days, and on the seventh He rested. We spend our days emulating Hashem in creating, in trying to conquer nature, to mold it into our desires, but on the seventh, on Shabbat, we are told to stop, to take a break, to meditate on being created and abstain from creating. We take a pause from trying to rise above what is natural and meditate on nature itself, on receiving in full faith that Hashem provides and is fully in charge and that no matter how hard we work, in the end, it is all in the hands of Hashem. As the Shabbat prayer reads, “Rejoice in your kingdom, you who keep the Sabbath.”3 

Shabbat, the seventh day of our week, is a taste of the infinite, but it’s still bound in time and space. It’s a gift from God that we even get that taste, as it is stated in Talmud Shabbat, “The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe, I have a precious gift in My treasure house, and it is called the Shabbat.”4 So much so that when I am in it, it is hard to let it go, feeling the anxiety of getting back to the regular week, of turning my phone and computer back on and what might await. Now more than ever, it seems essential to take this time to truly unplug once a week, to center oneself without the constant distraction of modernity, shifting focus to community, prayer, meditation and truly being present.

The Chasam Sofer expounds: by granting us the Shabbat with its unique spiritual powers (Neshama Yetiera/Additional Soul), Hashem reminds us that spirituality is also a gift from Him. If it were accomplished because of our own prowess, no distinction would exist between Shabbat and any other day. From the special nature of Shabbat, we conclude that Hashem, who created the holy day, nurtured the Jewish soul as well.

וְשָׁמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת לַעֲשׂ֧וֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם
The Jewish people must observe Shabbat, making it an eternal covenant throughout their generations5 

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes in Likutey Moharan that in this verse, LeDoRotam (לדרתם, throughout their generations), alludes to DiRah (דירה, dwelling or home), teaching that we have to draw Shabbat into our dwelling so that our physical spaces will feel the spiritual light that is Shabbat.6   The next verse we read the famous “For in the Six Days God made” (‘כִּי־שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים עָשָׂ֤ה הֹ)7 Rabbeinu teaches that it can also be read as “For God made Six Days,” meaning Hashem created time and the six days that concentrically encircle the inner focal point of creation which is Shabbat. Each day that is closer to Shabbat in time is also spiritually closer, which is also why human beings were created last, as we have the ability to elevate time and draw down the Infinite Light.8 

The Ten Commandments appear in the Torah two times: the first time historically, when they were given at Mount Sinai, the second time, though, is in context of Moshe’s review of the Exodus just before he passes away, at the end of the forty years in the desert. The first version reads as follows: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”9  The second version reads: “Guard the Sabbath day to keep it holy as God, your God, commanded you.”10 The second version really emphasizes that God commands it, but also says that it is your God that commands you, making it personal. There is a similarity with the commandment to honor one’s parents. The first version reads: “Honor your father and mother, in order that your days be long on the land God, your God, is giving to you.”11  The second version reads: “Honor your father and your mother, as G-d, your G-d, commanded you, in order that your days be long and in order that it be well with you on the land that G-d, your G-d, is giving you.”12 

The Arizal explains these two commandments as equivalent, one honoring your bodily physical parents and the other honoring your spiritual parents (i.e. Zeir Anpin and Nukva, who are referred to as the “two Sabbaths” in the famous sages’ statement that “If the Jewish people would keep two Sabbaths properly, they would be redeemed immediately”.13  The Arizal explains that every Jewish soul is produced by the union of the Zeir Anpin and Nukva (the female of Zeir Anpim, Aramiac for the Hebrew word, Nekavah, feminine, referring to Zeir Anpim’s bride), and that these partzufim may be considered our spiritual parents and that while most understand the sages’ statement to mean two Sabbaths in a row, the mystical meaning is actually that we must keep two aspects of the Shabbat– the feminine (night) and masculine (day). So, by honoring the Shabbat in the mystical meaning, we fulfill the commandment to honor our “parents” spiritually, and that is the redemption. This is the mystical meaning of “Everyone must fear his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths,”14 written in Kedoshim (my Bar Mitzvah parashah)– the plurality of Sabbaths represents the father and mother. 

In Sefer Yetzirah it’s written that the six days of the week are masculine and have six directions pointing outwards, but that the Sabbath is feminine, the center point which draws all six points together. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan says that this teaches us that when we look at ourselves in terms of our external relationships, we are looking at our masculine identity, but when we look at our Self, our inner core, that is a feminine entity. All week long our struggle to gain spirituality is on a male level, but on Shabbat we are on a female level, absorbing the fruits of all that we have done during the week. Without the Sabbath, there would be no way of receiving. When the female receives over one million sperm cells, only one is selected, and from her one fertilized egg, she gives back a complete life, an infant. There is a receiving, but what comes from that is completion. R’ Aryeh Kaplan explains that masculinity is giving, but the essence of femininity is receiving and completing. Whereas masculinity parallels Yetzirah, which is “something from something,” the femininity of Malchut parallels Asiyah, which is “completion.” Shabbat is a weekly opportunity to complete a cycle and receive, by enjoying the blessings that were earned through giving during the week.15

The Hebrew word for faith is Emunah. Kaplan points out that it comes from the same root as Uman – a craftsman. “Faith cannot be separated from Action. But, by what act in particular do we demonstrate our belief in G-d as Creator? The answer now becomes obvious. The one ritual that does this is the observance of the Shabbat. It is the confirmation of our belief in G-d as the Creator of all things. We now understand what the Talmud means when it says that one who does not keep the Shabbat is like an idol worshiper.”16 

There are two parts to keeping Shabbat: first, observing the laws of Shabbat in all their details in order to fulfill the commandment and not for any other motive; and second, to rest from work on Shabbat because we enjoy resting from our work. It’s key to tap into the holiness and the energy of the first part, connecting to Hashem because it is a bond, a sign and a covenant, and because it is Hashem who sanctifies us, which is what is written out in this Torah portion, “it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I am Hashem, Who sanctifies you.”17 

Shabbat is a time to take a break from viewing yourself as the one in control and demonstrate through actions that your faith is fully in Hashem as the one creator. Chassidic teaching refines the meaning of hashgachah, Divine providence, defining it as Hashem’s caring watchfulness and direct personal supervision (hashgachah pratit) of everything that exists— all animate matter, plants, animals and humanity. For man, hashgachah more specifically signifies Hashem’s ongoing active participation in every aspect of his life; His providing each person with the necessary means to serve Him and make His Immanence, i.e. the Divine Presence, known in the world. This is most apparent with regard to man’s livelihood. As I previously mentioned, I have personally seen this in my own life many times. I could make hundreds of sales calls and not land much of anything. However, if I stay positive, do the work that needs to be done and stay hopeful and giving, I can be a vessel for receiving. Then I might get a call the next day, seemingly out of the blue, and land a big money deal. This is one way to see that we aren’t in charge and can’t control the outcomes of many situations. The way to demonstrate this is by taking a break from earning money and working in all its various manifestations for the full 25 hours of Shabbat and showing, with full faith, that we trust that Hashem is watching over us in all His ways.

Mark Twain astutely points out, “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way.  Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of.  He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. 

His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.  He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities, of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind.  All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? ” 18

I believe Ahad Ha’am (the founder of cultural Zionism), who is famously quoted as saying, in answer to Twain’s question: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” It is the power of this commandment that it has preserved the people tasked to shine a perpetual light and elevate the fallen sparks in a world of darkness.


Erez Safar


Please note: You can read the full and final version of this Dvar in my first book, ‘LIGHT OF THE INFINITE: THE EXODUS OF DARKNESS.’

info: The book parallels the parshiot (weekly Torah reading) of Shemot/Exodus, which we are reading now! I act as your spiritual DJ, curating mystical insights and how to live in love by expounding on the infinite light of Kabbalah radiating through the Torah.

Just like on the dance floor, where the right song at the right moment can elevate our physical being, this book hits all the right beats for our spiritual being.

We cannot choose our blessings or how much light we will receive, but we can continually work to craft ourselves into vessels that are open to receiving – and giving – blessings of light.

All five books in the series, titled, The Genesis of Light, The Exodus of Darkness, The Sound of Illumination,Transformation in the Desert of Darkness, and Emanations of Illumination are available now at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. 
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Notes & Sources

  1. Exodus 31:13
  2. Rashi on Exodus 31:13
  3. Isaiah 58:13-14
  4. Talmud Shabbat 10b
  5. Exodus 31:16
  6. Likutey Moharan II, p. 67
  7. Ibid 31:17
  8. Likutey Moharan II, p. 39
  9. Exodus 20:8
  10. Deuteronomy 5:7
  11. Exodus 20:13-14
  12. Deuteronomy 5:16
  13. Talmud Shabbat 118b
  14. Leviticus 19:3
  15. R’ Aryeh Kaplan, “Inner Space”, p. 76
  16. Talmud Eruvin 69b
  17. Exodus 31:13-17
  18. Mark Twain Essays: Concerning the Jews