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Rabbi Doniel Staum - Parshios Acharei Mos/Kedoshim 5775 "Going to the In-Laws"
by Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

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In sixteenth-century Cracow, there lived a Jew named R’ Isserl (Yisroel Isser). Isserl was a scholar, philanthropist, and a well-respected community leader. He made a fine living manufacturing and selling fine silk. Many member of the Polish nobility were his customers.

Late one Friday morning, a nobleman entered Isserl’s store to make a substantial purchase. He spent a great deal of time picking out various amounts of many of the most expensive materials in the store. By the time he had chosen his fabric it was already noon, and the fabric still had to be measured and cut.

Isserl gently explained to his customer that he did not operate his store past noon on Friday, because he had to prepare for Shabbos. He promised to open his store early on Sunday morning so that they could complete the purchase.

The nobleman became incensed. He was not used to waiting for anything and he surely did not want to wait until Sunday to get his order. He insisted that the order be completed immediately. He reasoned that it would only take another fifteen minutes and Isserl would be netting a tremendous profit on the deal. The nobleman threatened that if he did not get his order right away he would take his business elsewhere.

Isserl humbly apologized again and insisted that he was not going to change his mind. “In all my years of business I have never deviated from my practice of not working after noon on Friday. I cannot compromise on that now.”

The nobleman stormed out of the store in a huff. The deal was off.

Sometime later Isserl and his wife were granted a son, whom they named Moshe. It was revealed to Isserl that Moshe would become a great Torah leader in the merit of the sacrifice he made for the honor of Shabbos. Indeed, that son became the legendary Rema[1], the foremost Ashkenazic halachic authority for the last five hundred years.

“G-d spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I am holy, Hashem, your G-d. Every man shall revere his mother and his father and you shall safeguard My Shabbos – I am Hashem, your G-d.”[2]

The Torah juxtaposes the commandment that one reveres his parents and Shabbos observance. Rashi explains that it is to teach us that although one is obligated to honor and respect his parents that obligation does not supersede one’s obligation to observe Shabbos. If one’s parents instruct him to violate Shabbos he may not obey.

The Chofetz Chaim offers an alternative, extraordinary explanation: Shabbos is referred to as a bride[3], and the Jewish people as its groom. If a groom adequately honors and cares for his bride then his father-in-law will take care of him and provide for his needs. Seeing that his daughter is well cared for fills him with joy and he will want to shower his son-in-law and daughter with gifts.

So too, when we honor and glorify Shabbos - the daughter of G-d as it were - He showers us with blessing, as the verse says, “And G-d blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it.” The pasuk juxtaposes fearing one’s parents with the mitzvah of Shabbos to symbolize the idea that in a sense G-d is the ‘father of the Shabbos Queen’ and if we care for His daughter He will provide for us.

The gemara[4] states, “Anyone who delights in the Shabbos is given an inheritance without boundaries… Anyone who delights in the Shabbos is granted all the requests of his heart.” All of the delicacies and customary foods that we eat on Shabbos are not extraneous, but are vital components of our Shabbos observance.

What is the meaning behind the concept of Oneg Shabbos (enjoying and ‘taking delight’ in the Shabbos). If Shabbos is such a holy day, why don’t we spend the day in meditation and prayer, as we do on Yom Kippur? Isn’t indulgence in food and physical enjoyment antithetical to spirituality and holiness?

Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus zt’l[5] explains that there is a fundamental difference between the holiness of Shabbos and the holiness of Yom Kippur. In parshas Achrei Mos the Torah details the lengthy service that the Kohain Gadol performed throughout Yom Kippur. At the conclusion of its narrative the Torah concludes, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, from all of your sins, before G-d you shall be purified.” Yom Kippur is a gift that G-d granted us as a means for us to purify our tainted souls so that we can achieve atonement. In order to express our desire to reconnect with G-d and right the wrongs we have committed we temporarily forfeit our earthly needs to symbolize our true desire.

Shabbos on the other hand, is not our day. Shabbos is G-d’s day![6]

Rabbi Pinkus explains with a parable: Imagine if you are invited to the home of a great and holy individual such as the Chasam Sofer[7]. The Chasam Sofer loves you dearly and is extremely excited to see you. As you walk into his home his face lights up and you can tell from his countenance that he has been waiting for your arrival. He immediately invites you into his dining room and insists on serving you lunch.

He walks into his kitchen and announces to his wife, “Did you hear? He has finally arrived. Please prepare a delicious banquet consisting of all of your fanciest dishes in his honor.”

When the meal was ready the Chasam Sofer personally sets it down in front of you, and invites you to enjoy.

At that moment, would anyone be foolish enough to reply, “I’m sorry Rabbi, but I am working on myself spiritually and I have been employing self-flagellation to train myself to stay away from earthly pleasures. I appreciate all of the Rabbi’s efforts but all I want is some crusty bread and a half cup of water.” Certainly not! Although it is unquestionably valuable for a person to train himself not to indulge too much in physical pleasures, in the home of a distinguished person one adheres to his instruction. If he invites me to enjoy what he has provided, I cannot have the audacity to refuse, all my noble intentions notwithstanding.

Rabbi Pinkus explains that on Yom Kippur we are involved with ourselves, i.e. our sins and our atonement. But on Shabbos we are “not in the picture”! Wherever we are in the world - even at our own tables - on Shabbos we are literally guests sitting at the table of G-d. [The Sages[8] explain that all of one’s expenditures in honor of Shabbos are not detracted from the total amount of money that he is destined to receive that year.] G-d is our host and He instructs us to indulge and enjoy, and therefore we must oblige. When one’s enjoyment is divinely commanded every bit of that enjoyment infuses him with holiness.

Every groom knows that the firs time he spends a Shabbos at the home of his future in-laws he must make a good impression. He wants his future in-laws to believe that he can and will provide properly for their daughter. If he can do so he knows his in-laws will do their best to help him as well.

With the combined ideas of the Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Pinkus we can say that on Shabbos we go to the in-laws. Once there, nothing gives the “Father-in-law” more pleasure and enjoyment than to see his son-in-law groom doting over his daughter.

The Chofetz Chaim related a parable to explain the folly of those who desecrate Shabbos in order to pursue their livelihood: There was once a farmer who did a lot of business with a certain merchant. The merchant would periodically collect bushels and pay off his bill at the end of six months. In order to keep an exact count of the bushels he had taken, the merchant would throw a penny into a bowl for every bushel he took. After six months the merchant and farmer would count the coins in the heaping bowl and the merchant would pay one hundred dollars for every penny in the bowl.

As the weeks wore on and the bowl began to fill, the silly farmer was entranced by the shiny coins. Finally, he could not restrain himself any longer. When the merchant wasn’t looking he grabbed a handful of pennies and stuffed them into his pockets. The farmer was delighted when he realized that the merchant had not noticed. He gleefully and smugly patted his pocket, not realizing the thousands of dollars he had cheated himself out of.

So too, explained the Chofetz Chaim, Shabbos is “מקור הברכה- the source and generator of all blessing.” If one desecrates the Shabbos so that he can earn a few more coins, he is unwittingly cheating himself out of far greater blessing.

One important way in which the groom exhibits his love and devotion to his bride is that he demonstrates his desire to be with her as much as possible. In regard to Shabbos we express that love by preparing for and anticipating the arrival of Shabbos by entering into the holy day respectfully with serenity.

On the Shabbos of Succos a special hoshana prayer, which enumerates many of the laws and customs regarding Shabbos, is recited[9]. One of those stanzas in that prayer reads, “ הושענא יושבת וממתנת עד כלות השבת- Please save (in the merit of) those who sit and wait until the conclusion of Shabbos.” These words are very perplexing. Is it a merit for one to anticipate and wait for the conclusion of Shabbos?

The Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoel Teitelbaum zt’l, explained that the prayer is not referring to one who excitedly waits for Shabbos to end. In fact, it means the opposite. It refers to one who sits and waits - with patience and tranquility – even as Shabbos is ending. In other words, he is not counting down the minutes for Shabbos to end while thinking about his plans for the night. Instead he is taking advantage of every moment of the waning holy day. Even as the sun is setting after an entire day of Shabbos he is still quaint and calm enjoying its final moments. In the merit of those who love Shabbos so passionately that they wish to extend it as long as possible we beg G-d to grant salvation.

In one of the beautiful Shabbos zemiros (songs), we sing, “כי אשמרה שבת קל ישמרני – When I guard the Shabbos, G-d will guard me.” It has often been said that in exile “Shabbos has done more to preserve the Jew than the Jew has done to persevere the Shabbos.” Rabbi Pinkus explains that “Shabbos” is a pseudonym for the Divine Presence.

The holiness of Shabbos is an ethereal extension of the holiness of G-d, as it were, much as a daughter is an extension of her parents. The Torah reminds us that if we take care of the daughter, her Father will take good care of us.

“Every man shall revere his mother and his father… safeguard My Shabbos”

“An inheritance without boundaries”

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[1] An acronym for “Rabbi Moshe Isserl’s” 1520-1572, i.e. Rabbi Moshe the son of Isser

[2] Vayikra 19:1-3

[3] As we state in the Shabbos prayers, “ - לכה דודי לקראת כלה פני שבת נקבלה Come my beloved to greet the bride the face of Shabbos we will accept.”

[4] Shabbos 118a

[5] Sichos, Shabbos Kodesh, “V’karasa l’Shabbos Oneg”

[6] To buttress this point - Our sages explain that whereas the holiness of all holidays (including Yom Kippur) is based on the ruling of the Jewish courts (who have jurisdiction over the Jewish calendar which in turn is the determining factor of when holidays occur), the holiness of Shabbos is completely Divinely ordained. Its holiness which commences at sunset each Friday is fixed and set. [It is for this reason that in the blessing recited at the conclusion of the recitation of Kiddush on Shabbos “Yisroel” is not mentioned.]

[7] Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839) was one of the foremost Torah leaders in his generation. One who cannot relate to this parable can substitute the Chasam Sofer for any great revered leader held in extremely high esteem.

[8] Gemara Rosh Hashana 16a

[9] During each day of Succos, the prevalent custom is to circle the bimah, holding the Four Species, reciting a passionate prayer that commences with the word, “"הושענא (please save). During the Shabbos of Succos, although the Four Species are not taken, a special hoshana prayer is still recited.

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