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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim 5774

Ein Ayah: Appreciating Shabbat With the Help of Spiritual Experts

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 1:16)

Gemara: One who gives a present to his friend should inform him … Hashem said: “I have a good present in my storehouses whose name is Shabbat, and I want to give it to Israel. Go inform them.” Based on this idea, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: One who gives bread to a young child, should inform his mother. What does he do? Abaye said: He smears oil on him and puts kuchla (blue coloring) around his eye. Nowadays that we are concerned about witchcraft, what does one do? Rav Papa said: He smears on from the same type as the present.


Ein Ayah: A young child understands only the benefit of the bread itself, whereas when his mother is aware of the present, she appreciates its social implications. She can also remind the child when he matures about that friendship. Thus, notifying the mother turns the physical present into a spiritual one as well.  

The same is true of Shabbat. Simple observance of the day is valuable, but there is also a great hidden spiritual gain, which helps one appreciate mankind’s value and serves as a foundation for the way of Torah and sanctity. The difference between the two levels of appreciation is comparable to the child’s and the mother’s appreciation of the gift of bread. The same present, whether it is bread or Shabbat, can have a slight impact on one and a deep impact on a more sensitive person. The mother corresponds to Klal Yisrael as a whole, which is “built by its sons” – referring to the talmidei chachamim who grasp the spiritual goal of Shabbat. The great people can spread the message to the masses like mothers nurse their children from the “milk of Torah and knowledge of Hashem.”


The Philosophical Enhances Physical Observance Until it Becomes Corrupt
(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 1:17)


Ein Ayah: There is a connection between the direct impact of physical actions and the broad spiritual concepts that they spawn. This is parallel to the aforementioned distinction between the child’s and the mother’s receipt of a simple present and between a simple and a deep Shabbat experience. There are those among the nation who go beyond the many intricate laws and practices of Shabbat and grasp the essence of the great sanctity that envelops it.

The gemara describes metaphorically the idea of strengthening a person’s physical powers by refining him with spirituality and teaching true wisdom to his mind. Smearing oil softens the body and makes it healthier; kuchla helps the eyes’ function and appearance.

In past eras, people’s basic philosophy was solid, and there were few heretical ideas. Then it was sufficient to follow the practical laws of Shabbat. The spiritual concepts were connected to the actions with the help of the guidance of the times’ spiritual leaders. Then philosophically dangerous people came along and raised questions within the nation about the importance of the practical physical rules of Shabbat, which are the foundation of the world and whose observance is a condition for gaining from Shabbat and indeed all of the Torah. The gemara refers to this problem metaphorically as witchcraft, and it defiles the beauty and sanctity of the actions of the Torah. Instead of enhancing the body with the oil and kuchla, they cling to allegedly spiritual concepts as a means of mocking the actions that are the foundation of life.

In such circumstances, it is necessary to “smear on the same type as the present.” In other words, we need to take the practical physical laws of Shabbat and expand them by means of Rabbinical prohibitions that strengthen the Torah laws. When the stress is on laws that govern practical life, it is harder for the heretics to cause philosophical destruction. People will realize that if we must be so careful about every detail of Shabbat observance, there must be great value to the sanctity of Shabbat and to the related idea that the Creator sanctified us through the Shabbat.


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