Dear Families of GNS,
To state the obvious – this Shabbat will be different than any other we have ever experienced. With no shul to daven in and no Shabbat meals to enjoy with groups of friends, we are being challenged to be inspired by a Shabbat spent in solitude.
Shabbat as a mitzvah is mentioned numerous times in our Torah, but its placement in Parshat Ki Tisa (31:12-17) is what I find interesting. It appears in this week’s parsha just prior to the narrative of the sin of the Golden Calf. The fact that Shabbat precedes the Cheit HaEgel alludes to a connection to the Egel. What is the nature of this connection?
The Mechiltah rather cryptically comments that the introductory words that begin this section -ויאמר ה’ – should be understood as G-d speaking and transmitting the mitzvah of Shabbat to Moshe without any use of malach or intermediary. The Malbim explains this to mean that Hashem is addressing Moshe to transmit this mitzvah of Shabbat directly to Am Yisrael. That the mesorah – transmission of the mitzvah of Shabbat differed from the regular process of transmitting mitzvot, which was through an intermediary of first relating it to Aharon then Aharon to Nadav and Avihu then to the Zekeinim and then to the Jewish people (Airuvin 54b).
Additionally, once could suggest an alternative explanation. Why is Shabbat so special? Why do we find that more than the Jewish People preserve the Shabbat, the Shabbat preserves the Jewish people? Such a statement is not said about any other mitzvah? The answer is that on the Shabbat we have a special relationship of intimacy with Hashem that we do not experience during the six days of the week. That special bond is a direct connection with Hashem without any intermediary as we have during the week.
The Sfas Emes writes that during the week man’s involvement with מלאכה – work is through a מלאך – angel, which shares the same letters. However, on Shabbat which is מעין עולם הבא – a sampling of Olam HaBah where there is no מלאכה. Olam Habah is the place where we receive reward from Hashem directly in the utmost intimate relationship. Shabbat is the day when Hashem relates to us with Himself and not a malach.
The sin incurred in worshipping the Golden Calf was not in the making of the Egel, since they really did not believe in it as a deity. The sin was that after Moshe did not return to them, they experienced a loss of direction and that they needed an intermediary to come before Hashem. They lacked the sense of self-worth and the realization of what is the true essence of a Jew and his deep relationship with Hashem that can be experienced every Shabbat. This is the reason why Hashem placed the mitzvah of Shabbat in the Torah prior to the narrative of the Egel HaZahav, in order to teach that Shabbat is the refuah before the makkah.
We hope that all these developments since the spread of the Coronavirus does not become a new normal for the world. We pray that those impacted by the virus will receive complete recoveries and that the effects will be minimized throughout the affected regions. May our Shabbat spent in solitude, with proper attention and precision payed to its observance inspire a new path leading to a restoration of physical health, financial stability and spiritual growth for all of our families.
Rabbi Ian Lichter