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  • Writer's pictureTamir Cohen

Shiriyah Winning Dvar Torah- Day 1: What Makes Shabbat Holy?

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Kedusha, or holiness, is one of the central concepts in Judaism. It is not only a standard that we strive for in our daily lives but also an idea that manifests itself in many parts of Hashem’s creation. Throughout the Torah, we see the idea of kedusha appear in various contexts. The Land of Israel, for example, is regarded as “Eretz Hakodesh,” the holy land. The city of Jerusalem is known as “Eer Hakodesh,” the holy city. In fact, even the Jewish people themselves are commanded to emulate God’s characteristic of kedusha- as the passuk says: “קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י ה’ אֱלֹקָיכֶֽם”- You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your God, am holy.

When it comes to Shabbat, the Torah also describes the day as being holy. Yet, this kedusha is categorically different from the others, as it doesn’t apply to any physical object, but rather to a time period. The Seventh day of each week, on which Hashem rested after the World’s creation, is declared by him to be a holy day. As the passuk says, וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹקַים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤ו” שָׁבַת֙ מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹקַים לַעֲשֽׂוֹת׃”- And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy—having ceased on it from all the work of creation that God had done. Now, from this passuk alone, it would seem that the day itself was given an intrinsic holiness due to the fact that God rested on it.

However, we see later in the Torah that there is an obligation on us to santify this day, as the passuk says,” זָכ֛וֹר֩ אֶת־י֥֨וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖֜ת לְקַדְּשֽׁ֗וֹ”. Our chachamim explain that this passuk describes our obligation to remember Shabbat actively, through actions such as lighting the shabbat candles, saying kiddush, and more. Based on this passuk, it would appear that the day itself is just that- a regular day, but it’s through the unique actions that we take on that day that it becomes holy.

That being said, the quesiton is simple: Is Shabbat Holy in and of itself, or do we make it holy through our fullfillment of the mitzvot?

I’d like to suggest a possible answer, based on a passuk in sefer tehillim. As the passuk says, “כִּ֤י אִ֥ם בְּתוֹרַ֥ת ה’ חֶ֫פְצ֥וֹ וּֽבְתוֹרָת֥וֹ יֶהְגֶּ֗ה יוֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה “, the teaching of Hashem is his delight, and he studies his teaching day and night. The chachamim question this seeming inconsistency in the “ownership” of the torah throughout this verse. At the beginning, it’s described as “‘תוֹרַ֥ת ה”, Hashem’s torah, but later it’s called “תוֹרָת֥וֹ,” meaning the Torah of he who learnt in. Rashi expounds on this passuk and explains that in the beginning, the torah belongs to Hashem. But once a person learns it, once they put blood, sweat and tears into it, once they truly engrain it into themselves, then they gain a share in the torah. Only at that point does it become “תוֹרָת֥וֹ”

I believe that a similar concept applies with regard to Shabbat. When Hashem created the world, he declared this day as a holy one, and it’s remained that way ever since, and it will continue to remain that way, regardless of whether or not we keep it. However, our fulfillment of the mitzvot, our sanctification of Shabbat, is what allows us to gain a share in that kedusha. The kedusha of Shabbat is like a safe filled with diamonds- the diamonds will always be there, and they’ll never lose their value. The only problem is, without the proper key, we’ll never be able to access that safe. And what is that key? Torah, mitzvot, and observing Shabbat- these are the keys that will allow us to open that safe of kedusha and unlock the treasures that await.

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