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Shabbat and the Redemption

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Parsha Halacha – Parshat Va’etchanan / Shabbat Nachamu

How Keeping Two Shabbatot Brings Moshiach

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The Torah portion of Va’etchanan includes the Ten Commandments, one of which is the mitzvah of observing the Shabbat.[1] As such, this article will focus on the teaching in the Talmud that keeping Shabbat will lead to the redemption.

Keep Two Shabbatot
Rabbi Yochanan[2] says, “If only the Jewish people would keep two Shabbatot, they would immediately be redeemed,[3] as the verse says, ‘For so says the L-rd to the eunuchs,[4] Whoever will keep My Shabbatot and choose what I desire and hold fast to My covenant… I will bring them to My holy mount, and I will cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer.'”[5]
Shabbat Chazon and Shabbat Nachamu
Reb Yisroel of Tchortkov said[6] that the two Shabbatot Rabbi Yochanan is referring to are the Shabbatot of Shabbat Chazon (the Shabbat preceding Tisah Be’Av) and Shabbat Nachamu (the Shabbat following Tisha Be’Av). Although we are sad up until Tisha Be’Av, the mood changes immediately afterwards to one of joy since we truly believe that the redemption is near. This indicates that even our weeping on Tisha Be’Av is not born of despair, but rather it is a prayer for the rebuilding of the Bait HaMikdash.
This explains a famous story in the Talmud.[7] Rabban Gamliel was once walking with the sages near the Temple Mount when they saw a fox emerging from the spot of the Holy of Holies.[8] Rabban Gamliel and the other sages began to cry while Rabbi Akiva started to laugh. When they asked him why he was laughing, he turned to them and asked them why they were crying. They exclaimed, “How can we not cry when we see a fox exiting from the area that only a Kohen Gadol may enter, and even he, only on the holiest day of the year?” Rabbi Akiva explained that he was laughing because he realized that the fox exiting from the Holy of Holies was the fulfillment of a particular prophecy and that once that prophecy was fulfilled, Moshiach could come. The sages then said, “Akiva you have comforted us, Akiva you have comforted us.”[9]
Reb Yisroel of Chortkov explains that Rabbi Akiva was saying that the tears that his colleagues were weeping were contributing to the imminent arrival of Moshiach since they were not tears of despair but rather tears of supplication. The same is true of the Jewish people. By having a joyful Shabbat Nachamu, we are indicating that our tears of the mourning period which just finished were prayerful tears. In this merit, Moshaich will come.
What is the Link Between Shabbat and the Redemption?
Several reasons are given as to why keeping Shabbat brings the redemption:
  • The Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 25:12) explains that since keeping all of the mitzvot will bring Moshiach, when we keep Shabbat which is compared to all of the mitzvot, Moshiach will come.
  • The Zohar says[10] that on Shabbat one must be joyous and overcome any depression one may have been experiencing during the week. In addition, if one was fighting with one’s friend or spouse, one should resolve his or her dispute and be at peace before Shabbat begins. This will cause the banishing of the negative forces and will hasten the redemption when such forces will be completely eradicated.
  • Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823 – 1900) explains[11] that keeping Shabbat properly causes a person to cleave to G-d with love. One who does this will be able to guard himself in the following week from becoming attached to his bodily passions. As a result of this, he will be able to accept the full holiness of the following Shabbat this will grant him a soul from the world of freedom (from exile). Just as this happens to an individual who keeps two successive Shabbatot properly, so will this happen on a global scale when the entire Jewish people keep two Shabbatot.
  • The Tur[12] points out that each of the three prayers of Shabbat (Ma’ariv, Shacharit and Mincha) have different texts as opposed to the three prayers of weekdays (and the three prayers of Yomtov) which are all the same. Each of the Shabbat prayers, says the Tur, discusses the element of the Shabbat represented by the time of that prayer. The evening of Shabbat represents the time when G-d created the world (Shabbat Bereishit) since he finished that creation as Friday night was beginning. Therefore, in our Friday night Amidah, we focus on the first Shabbat of creation by saying Vayechulu (the paragraph discussing how G-d finished creating the world). Shabbat morning represents the mitzvah of Shabbat as it was given on Mount Sinai (Shabbat Sinai) since that revelation happened on Shabbat morning.[13] Therefore, the Shabbat morning Amidah discusses how G-d gave us this mitzvah at Mount Sinai (“Moshe rejoices with the gift that is his lot… And You did not give it to another nation”).[14] Shabbat afternoon represents the Messianic era which is called the day of everlasting Shabbat (Shabbat DiLeAtid Lavo). The end of Shabbat represents the time of the coming revelation which will take place towards the end of this world as we know it.[15] The Mincha Amidah reflects this by speaking about the unity of G-d which will be recognized by all of humanity in the Messianic era. Based on this, Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin[16] explains that by keeping the two levels of Shabbat – Friday night and Shabbat morning, which correspond to the Shabbat of Creation and that of Sinai, we will merit to the third Shabbat, that of the Redemption.[17]
 One Shabbat or Two?
The Jerusalem Talmud[18] has a slightly different version of the above teaching. “If the Jewish people would keep one Shabbat properly, (Moshiach) Ben David would come immediately as the verse says, ‘Moshe said ‘Eat it (hayom) today because Shabbat is the day for G-d.’[19] (The commentaries explain that the word hayom indicates redemption as in the verse ‘Hayom im bekolo tishma’u – (the redemption will come) today if you hearken to His voice.’[20]) Another source for this is the verse that says ‘For so said the L-rd G-d… ‘With tranquility and restfulness (i.e., by resting on Shabbat) shall you be saved (i.e., redeemed).'”[21] This means that if we rest properly even on one Shabbat we will be redeemed.”
There are various resolutions to explain whether keeping one or two Shabbatot is necessary for the redemption. Some of them are presented here:
  • The expression used in the Babylonian Talmud, “we will immediately be redeemed,” indicates that it is referring to when the redemption happens before its appointed time, meaning to say that observing the Shabbat will give us the sufficient merit to bring Moshiach even before the designated time of his arrival. In order to deserve this, it is not enough for us to keep Shabbat during the time of Shabbat. We must also accept Shabbat early, thus extending Shabbat into the weekday. In this merit, the redemption (which Shabbat is a taste of) arrives early as well. Thus, the two Shabbatot spoken about in the Babylonian Talmud are, in reality, one Shabbat that includes two: the Shabbat that was ordained by G-d Almighty and the additional holiness of Shabbat that we infuse into the week.[22]
  • Each Shabbat contains two levels. The lower level is achieved simply by keeping Shabbat, while the higher level, which is the level of freedom from the evil inclination, is only achieved with proper preparation (see above in the explanation of Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen.) For most people, this process takes two weeks. It is possible, however, for a person (and indeed, all of the Jewish people) to achieve both of these levels within the same Shabbat.[23]
  • The Zohar says[24] that every Shabbat contains two Shabbatot. The first is the evening of Shabbat. This is the lower level of Shabbat (Shabbat Tata’ah) when the Torah study and mitzvot of the previous week are elevated to G-d. The Shabbat day is the higher level of Shabbat (Shabbat Ila’ah) when the level of G-d’s pleasure with our service is revealed to this world. This revelation is from the very essence of G-d, and it becomes the enlivening force within the entire world for the coming week. To bring the redemption, we must keep both levels of Shabbat within one Shabbat.[25]
  • Reb Menachem Nochum of Chernobel (1730 – 1797) explains[26] that Shabbat contains the energy for the entire week, and keeping it properly can therefore correct any deficiencies we may develop within the weekdays. There are two aspects to Shabbat, the physical – the meals, prayers and observing the laws– and the spiritual – the deep awareness of G-dliness that goes hand in hand with these rituals. If one keeps only the physical Shabbat, it is like a body without a soul, and he cannot be redeemed from his weekly troubles. Similarly, if one only experiences the spiritual delight of Shabbat and does not observe its physical rituals, this holiness cannot elevate the world as there is no physical receptacle for it. Whereas one who keeps both aspects of Shabbat – body and soul – will be redeemed from his sins. Similarly, when the Jewish people as a whole do this, they are redeemed from their sins, and Moshiach will come.
May this take place speedily in our days!

[1] Deut. 5:12-16
[2] Shabbat 118b
[3] The word for “if only” is אלמלי which can also be translated (when spelled אלמלא) “if not.” Reb Baruch of Mezhibuzh explains this spelling to mean that if the Jewish people would not wait until Yom Kippur to do Teshuvah (the two Shabbatot is referring to Yom Kippur which is called Shabbat Shabbaton) but would do Teshuvah in middle of the year, they would immediately be redeemed (Cited in Butzina DeNehora, teachings of Reb Baruch of Mezhibuzh, Jerusalem, 2007, pg. 241)
[4] The Yismach Moshe (Ki Tissa, D.H. Ach et Shabtotai) explains why this promise is made specifically to eunuchs. The Talmud (Niddah 13b) says that Moshiach will not come until all the souls in heaven are born in this world. Thus, a eunuch, who cannot have children, may feel sad that he cannot play a part in bringing the redemption. So the prophet informs him that he too can play a part in bringing the redemption since, if the Jewish people observe two Shabbatot, we will immediately be redeemed. (See Shabbat Shel Mi on Tractate Shabbat, ibid, that if we keep two Shabbatot, Moshiach can come even if all of the souls are not born yet.)
[5] Isaiah 56:4 – 7
[6] Ginzei Yisrael (Jerusalem, 2014) pg. 542.
Reb Yisroel, son of Reb Dovid Moshe Freidman (1854-1934) was the grandson of the Ruzhiner Rebbe and was the second Tchortkover Rebbe.
[7] Makot 24b
[8] The Aruch LaNer explains that the fox represents the sin that led to the destruction of the Second Temple – the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) for sinat chinam (baseless hatred). This Yetzer Hara is very wily (like a fox) and has many tricks with which to ensnare people in strife with their fellow man.
[9] There are various explanations as to why they repeated this phrase twice.
  • The Aruch Laner (by Rabbi Yaakov Ettinger of Germany, 1798 – 1871) says they were using the expression of the verse Nachamu Nachamu Ami – Console, console my people (Isaiah, 40:1)
  • It was comfort for both the first and second destruction (the Ri”f – Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto of Damascus, Syria, 1565 – 1648, in his commentary on the Ein Yaakov).
  • One comfort was for the news of the impending redemption and the other was for the fact that the shocking incident of the fox, was, in actuality, beneficial (ibid).
  • It was comfort for this story and for the previous story in the Talmud, when they heard the Romans celebrating (Maharsha).
[10] Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 21, page 57a as explained in the Matok Midvash.
[11] Pri Tzadik, Parshat Shelach,5672. (Iwas unable to locate this in the Pri Tzadik. It is cited in the Metivta edition of the Talmud, Kaftor Vaferach on the above page of Tractate Shabbat.)
[12] O.C. 292
[13] See Shabbat 86b
[14] This explains why in the Amidah of Shabbat morning according to Nusach Sefard and Arizal, the paragraph of Yismechu does not include the words “Zecher Lema’aseh Bereishit – a memory for the act of creation.”
[15] Davar Be’ito (by Rabbi Sasson ben Moshe Sandoch of Bagdad, 1747 – 1830), page 190 (published in Jerusalem, 1985).
[16] Founder of the Daf Yomi movement (1887 – 1933).
[17] Ohr HaMe’ir, Haggadah Shel Pesach, D.H. Velo Natan Lanu Et HaShabbat, cited in Kaftor Vaferach in the Metivta Talmud on Shabbat ibid.
[18] Ta’anit, 1, end of Halacha 1. See also Midrash Shochar Tov, 95, Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim, ot 852, and the Tikunei Zohar, ibid.
[19] Exodus 16:25
[20] Psalms 95:7
[21] Isaiah 30:15
[22] Ziknei She’eirit HaPleitah (Jaffo, 1947) by Rabbi Ahron Rosenfeld, ot 32
[23] Pri Tzadik, Parshat Korach, 12
[24] Parshat Bereishit 5b
[25] Likutei Torah, Behar, 41a and Ma’amarei Admur Ha’emtza’i, Shemot, page 208 and on
[26] Ma’or Einayim, Parshat VaYakehl, D.H. Kol Hame’aneg
Wishing You all a Shabbat Shalom!
Aryeh Citron

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