On Shabbat We Rest
Harav Israel Asulin
Translated by Moshe Neveloff
Sunday, 19th of Adar I, 5776
When, in the recent past, did you go on a vacation?
Vacation. This phenomenon, which is an inseparable part of our routine in this generation, already has a culture and jargon and rules of its own. It is rated as one of the most influential branches of the economy, which educational institutions set aside for it two months of the year. There are people who work hard all year just in order to be able to ‘go on vacation’ at the end of the year. This idea of vacation, which people try so hard to obtain and invest in and look forward to; is it found only in bed and breakfasts, hotels, attractions and tourist sites? Or can you also find it inside yourself?
When Hashem commands the Jewish people to keep the Shabbat, he speaks about it as if he was speaking about vacation: “For six days work may be done and the seventh day is a day of complete rest, it is sacred to Hashem… Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever that in a six-day period Hashem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.” (Exodus, 31:15-17)
The Holy Shabbat. This is a time of completely stopping the marathon of life with its never ending nuisances and noise, and entering a time of release and calm and holiness, moments of “He rested and was refreshed.”
Not long ago everything was on fire here. Telephones rang, keyboards clicked, messages danced, screens flickered, pots boiled, the washing machine and the iron and the dishwasher and the oven and the bucket and mop were all active… buses blowing exhaust and trucks with their deliveries and shopping centers were alive and bustling…
And in one moment everything is silenced. Everyone went on vacation. All of the devices and the transportation and the engines… it doesn’t matter what I was in the middle of, everything goes silent and disappears, because the Holy Shabbat has come down to the world, with a white table cloth spread on the table and quiet and calmness and love which are like the World to Come.
How many songs have been written about it. How many gave their lives for it over the generations. How many hidden emotions it awakens in every Jew, who just agrees to feel them. How much atmosphere and how much warmth…
What is the secret formula of the tranquility of Shabbat? How does this Shabbat rest happen?
Accepting the reality.
During the entire week we are just trying to change and improve and make the reality better, and progress and climb and continue and take flight… on Shabbat we stop in our tracks. We don’t move. Don’t try. Just rest. We are happy and enjoying where we are.
Rebbe Natan explains: “Because the six days of work are lacking and they only have completion by way of Shabbat, which is the purpose of the creation of heaven and earth… the six days of the week only have life from Shabbat… and therefore they are the aspect of groaning over a lacking, because the main grasp of the groaning is during the six days of the week that are lacking the spirit of life. Then we need to moan, in order to bring the spirit of life, and to complete the lacking of the six days of the week with Shabbat, which is the main life… because Shabbat is the aspect of completion.” (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Passover, 3rd teaching)
Shabbat is the reality of completion, of fulfillment, and the days of the week are the aspect of groaning and lacking. It’s impossible without Shabbat, because without it we are also lacking the six days of the week!
The great Chassidic Rabbis say that just like we have Shabbat in actuality, here in the world of action, there is also “Shabbat in the soul”, inside every one of us.
What does the expression “Shabbat in the soul” mean?
Shabbat in the soul means receiving my internal reality as it is: ‘This is me, this is what is happening to me now. I don’t criticize myself. I accept my reality as it is.’
At first glance, this teaching seems to us to contradict a little bit the obligation to progress and the holy will to reach higher and be uplifted. But truly it does not contradict, it builds you!
A person who comes to fix himself has to have in his soul a place of Shabbat. Not all the time. Not always. Not only this. This is not to say that we’ll continue to embrace all our nonsense and mistakes and failures and addictions and falls with extra affection: ‘I don’t criticize myself. That’s the way I am, and I accept the reality as it is.’ No!
Rather what is the correct approach?
We work on ourselves. We want to make progress and aspire with all our strengths to get there. We check ourselves, we know our weaknesses and groan over them, we search where we made a mistake and try to correct it. We are aware where we fell to and we begin again. We educate our children. We ourselves are being educated. We don’t give up! We want Hashem in our life. We want our true selves in our lives. We are not ready to live this life like an empty and hollow covering which doesn’t contain anything. We want content in our life and truth and connection and giving and doing and overcoming. We want, and we try with all our strength and without discounts!
However, at the same time, we must have the attribute of Shabbat in our soul. It’s forbidden for us to be criticizing all the time where we are, rejecting ourselves, opposing ourselves. We must have in our souls a place where we accept who we are and enjoy how we are and we love what we are. A relaxed place, accepting, thankful, happy. A place which from it we say: ‘Master of the world, it’s true that that’s who I am right now, but nevertheless, I’m yours! And I’m always good, because I’m part of you!’
Like Shabbat, which blows a spirit of life into all the days of the week, so to regarding our personal growth: without this trait of Shabbat in the soul, of seeing the good without a speck of criticism, then, God forbid, there is no life in all of the feverish work and in all the beating ourselves up in the journey of coming closer!
You want to make progress?
Okay, wonderful, praise to you!
Go forward, all of the creation is waiting for your work!
However, before you go on the way, on the path of the six days of the week, don’t forget to equip yourself with a vacation package, the aspect of “He rested and was refreshed!”