Good Afternoon Rabbi!
I would like to ask a question regarding Shabbat. Your response would help me a lot and I’d truly appreciate it. the question is, in relation to the quotation by Ahad Ha Am. "More than Judaism has kept the Sabbath, The Sabbath has kept Judaism." In your perspective as a Rabbi, how do you think Shabbat contributes to Judaism as a living, breathing tradition. I’d like to know more about this interesting matter and your expertise regarding this would surely help me a lot so thank you very much for taking the time to read this email and looking forward to your response.
Shalom! Thanks for your very basic and important question. Just like the body is a lot more visible and seemingly significant than the soul, it’s really the soul which comprises the essence of life. Similarly, as opposed to the six secular weekdays which preoccupy most of our lives, nevertheless, Shabbat is the “soul” of the week, giving meaning and depth to our entire being. Most individuals and nations are generally preoccupied with their economic, security, social, and international physical existence and status. It’s not a coincidence that the “People of the Book” introduced to mankind the weekly day of rest, in addition to social consideration for the slaves or working class, not to mention many other philosophical, social and even technological inventions and innovations. It has been very beneficial to us and to mankind to obligate once a week, for over 3,300 years, to stop working, shopping, inventing, and what-not, in order to learn Torah, study and contemplate what life is about; what we have accomplished in the past 6 days, and what should preoccupy us in the coming 6 days? This Shabbat has proven a great contribution to us as individuals, as communities and as a nation, and it’s not a coincidence that over time, all the nations (which used to work 7 days a week) copied this idea. To have a day where we turn “inwards” to our family and community life, and rise above our career, status and even hobbies, in order to get in touch with our deeper selves. My non-religious cousins are jealous of our Shabbat- a day without slavery to cell-phones, internet, car or money, which enables us the freedom to be ourselves and enjoy “our” real life, without all the distractions. I admit to them, that even if there was no religious or Godly obligation of Shabbat, we would have to invent it! On a national level, in the State of Israel, these beautiful ideas are multiplied many times over (wherever the Shabbat is observed).
With Love of Israel!
Rabbi Ari Shvat