Every week we have an opportunity to connect to a space in time that is unique, special and different from the other days of the week, Shabbat. Every week on Shabbat, we can return to our essential selves and to our eternal connection with God. We can leave behind the struggles of the week, the pain and the anxiety of the week and enter a space of healing. We have the space and the time to connect with family and friends, and reflect upon what truly matters in life. Shabbat is an incredible opportunity to be more conscious of spirituality. There is nowhere to run to, nothing to chase. A feeling of peace descends upon the world. Let us explore a little bit what makes Shabbat such a special day.
Shabbat gives us true freedom. Rebbe Nachman teaches that a person needs to be very careful to be happy and good hearted on Shabbat, because the spiritual levels and the holiness of Shabbat are very great and precious. By being happy on Shabbat our fear and awe of Heaven is completed, meaning that our awareness of God is elevated and connected to true knowledge. During the six days of the week, it is possible to have all kinds of fears that are foolish. The feeling of servitude that we sometimes experience during the week causes this foolishness. When a person feels enslaved, their mind is not free. Their mind is confused. However, on Shabbat we become free of this servitude. When a person is free and not in the exiled state of servitude, then their mind and knowledge are complete. The main aspect of this freedom that we experience on Shabbat is through delighting and being happy on Shabbat. Through this state of happiness, someone can leave their exile. By rejoicing on Shabbat, we are able to rectify all of our fallen fears as well, because when we have true knowledge we see that there is really no reason to be afraid of this thing or this person. Being happy on Shabbat gives us true knowledge, and this enables us to be truly free. (Likutei Moharan, 17th teaching, Part Two)
Shabbat is also the aspect of teshuva, returning to Hashem, as the verse says “and you will return to Hashem, your God.” (Devarim, Chapter 30, Verse 2) In the future, when we merit the final redemption, we will merit a day that is completely like Shabbat, a day of complete teshuva. We will reach higher and higher levels of the knowledge of Hashem. We will repent on our previous levels of spiritual knowledge and perceptions, because we will know that there are so many new levels we still have not obtained. The sages call Shabbat a taste of the World to Come, because every Shabbat we connect in a deeper way to holiness, to Hashem and His Torah. Reb Noson adds that from this we see Hashem’s tremendous love for His people. In His mercy, He gave us this amazing gift, which was hidden away in secrecy, Shabbat. Therefore, we need to try to receive this wonderful gift with love and great joy, because through the gift of Shabbat we can all merit to return to Hashem, no matter what we have been through during the week. For many people it is hard for them to return to Hashem due to the battles they have with the evil inclination. Every day the evil inclination tries again to knock us down. This causes people to become dejected and to stop trying to come closer to God and to their true essence. The main help and salvation that we have is the power of the holiness of Shabbat, which is so awesome. Therefore, we need to connect ourselves to the holiness of Shabbat every day of the week; we need to carry it into the six days of the week. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Shabbat, 7th teaching)
Rebbe Nachman also teaches that Shabbat is so holy and elevated that even our eating on Shabbat is different. He says that the main way that we honor Shabbat is through our eating, because eating on Shabbat is very precious and it is actually only spiritual. Therefore, it is a great mitzvah to eat well on Shabbat, to eat special meals and special foods that we enjoy. Our service of eating on Shabbat also helps us to rectify any aspect of desecrating the Shabbat we might have done mistakenly. (Likutei Moharan, Teaching 277, Part One)
The holiness of Shabbat gives life and meaning to the six, mundane days of the week. All of the challenges, pain, and anxieties of the week fade away as we light the candles and accept Shabbat with the special prayers of Kabbalat Shabbat. The holy Arizal (Rav Yitzhak Luria ztz” l) and his students in the city of Tzfat introduced these prayers, about 500 years ago. Many times I have thought to myself at some point during the day of Shabbat, ‘Thank God, I feel so far away from where I was on Erev Shabbat!’ In those moments, I feel so much more connected. Connected to Hashem, myself and to my family. I feel a feeling of happiness and peace inside. Shabbat heals us with true faith. God’s kingship over the world is revealed on Shabbat and we feel the healing of His presence in our lives. We can merit to obtain this faith, knowledge and consciousness every week on the awesome day of Shabbat.
“By keeping Shabbat a person draws upon themselves the light of Mashiach; also by doing teshuvah (a person draws upon themselves the light of Mashiach).” Sefer HaMidot, the Book of Traits, Mashiach, 5th teaching
(The inspiration for this article came from Chapter 2 of The Story of Our Lives, by Yaakov Klein, and from a series of classes on Shabbat by Joey Rosenfeld)