Monday, March 8, 2010

Parashat VaYakheil: A Sabbath to G-d

"Six days you may do your work; but the seventh day will be holy, a sabbath of sabbaths to God" (Ex. 35:2).

The Lonely Businessman and the Pauper

Jonathan was on an extensive business trip far away from home. He missed his family and friends greatly,  and anxiously sought out any news of them whenever the opportunity arrived. If Jonathan met a traveler, he would eagerly question him, hoping to hear news from home.

One day, a poor man arrived in town and began making the rounds, collecting handouts and small change. When Jonathan saw the pauper standing at his door, he became very excited - he recognized this fellow! He was from his home town!

Jonathan immediately began bombarding him with questions about his family and the latest news from home.

The poor man, however, was not pleased with all this attention "Why do you bother me with all of your questions? Leave me alone! I don't have time for idle chatter. I came here to collect donations, not spend the day gabbing away with you!"

Lonely and eager for news, Jonathan did not relent. "How much did you expect you will collect here today?"

Jonathan then opened his wallet and took out the entire sum. "Here, take this. Now you can spend the day with me and give me a full report on everything that has happened in our home town since I left."

The poor man was a bit surprised, but agreed to the offer. He took the money and began to relating the latest news. However, he soon became extremely weary, and his head began to nod off. He finally begged his host, "I am so tired from my walking... is there a place here where I could take a nap for a few hours?"

Jonathan was indignant. "I paid you so that you wouldn't have to go begging house to house, but would be available to answer all of my questions about my family and neighbors. Why do you think that now you can go to sleep and ignore me?"

A Day for the Neshama

God gave us a lofty soul, formed from under His holy throne. All week long, we are busy earning a living, and the Divine soul is in exile, far away from home.

But one day a week, God gave us the Sabbath, a day when we are not burdened with our weekday occupations, a day when we are free to enjoy being close to God and rejoice in His love for us.

That is what the Torah says, "Six days you may do your work." For six days each week, we are busy with worldly matters. "But the seventh day will be holy, a sabbath of sabbaths to God."

The Sabbath should be dedicated for holy matters, prayer and Torah study, "A sabbath to God." God gave us Shabbat so that we will be free to immerse ourselves in spiritual pursuits - not so that we should spend the entire day sleeping!

"The Sabbath and holidays were only given to Israel so that they will occupy themselves in Torah study" (Jer. Talmud Shabbat 15:3; see Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim, 288:1).

(Adapted from Mishlei Yaakov, pp. 176-177)