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The Precious Gift of Shabbos

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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The Precious Gift of Shabbos

The Gemara relates that Hashem told Moshe I have a מתנה טובה, wonderful gift in my treasure house and its name is Shabbos. I want to give it to the Jewish people, go and inform them.[1] The Sefer Sifsei Kedoshim explains this Gemara with a story. R’ Shmuel Shmelke once encountered a poor person and didn’t have anything to give him. He therefore gave a precious ring he had in his possession. When his wife realized this, she got so upset since it was worth a lot of money. The Rebbe then said if it is worth that much, let me go tell the poor person how much the ring is truly worth so that he doesn’t sell it for cheap. In this way we can grasp the above Gemara as we must know the true value of Shabbos. Therefore, לך והודיעם, inform the Jews about the value of Shabbos.


The word שבת is related to tranquility, serenity as in שובה ונחת, stillness and peacefulness, and as in נפשי ישובב, restores my soul.[2] The evil forces desist on Shabbos as the Zohar[3] tells us, “When Shabbos arrives…all harsh judgements are removed…all wrathful dominions and bearers of grievances flee…”


We need to experience a genuine Shabbos. R’ Moshe Leib Sassover[4] would give the following analogy: There was someone who wanted to invite a great person. He therefore ordered the highest quality of everything—the finest delicacies, top musicians, funniest comedians, the best lighting and so on. However, he forgot to invite the guest. The same is with many people in regard to Shabbos as they prepare the best foods, wear their finest clothing, wipe the floor clean, prepare beautiful Shabbos candles and so forth. However, they forget to invite Shabbos! In this way we can comprehend v’karasa l’Shabbos,[5] as one needs to also invite Shabbos.


There was a Jew from Yerushalayim who would say, “Hashem, You gave me challa for Lechem Mishna,[6] wine for Kidush and Havdala, and all that I need for Shabbos. Now, please give me Shabbos for Shabbos.” We need to experience the joy, sweetness and holiness of Shabbos.[7]


The Shela comments on וקראת לשבת ענג that Shabbos should have an ענג from you.[8] That is, from the way you daven, learn[9] and the like.[10]


Shabbos has the ability to bring us close to Hashem as it says ואני קרבת אלהים לי טוב[11], as קרבת, closeness, shares the same Gematria as שבת, 702. How does one feel the light of Shabbos?  The Lechivitzer[12]  remarks on levu alai…va’ani porea[13] (“borrow the funds needed for Shabbos and I, Hashem, will repay your loans”), that לוו can mean connect as in ילוה אישי, my husband will become attached.[14] So, connect with Hashem and then ואני פורע, He will show you the light, as פורע can mean to reveal as in כי פרע, it was exposed.[15]

[1] Shabbos 10b.

[2] Yeshaya 30:15, Tehillim 23:3. Tangentially, we don’t say good night on Shabbos (rather we say Good Shabbos) since Shabbos is entirely light.

[3] Teruma 134:1.

[4] R’ Dovid Hager of Zabolotov (1797-1848) married the righteous Rebbitzen Pesya Leah, who was the daughter of R’ Moshe Leib of Sassov. Following R’ Dovid Hager’s passing, his wife would receive k’vitlach by his followers.

[5] Yeshaya 58:13.

[6] Incidentally, the Netziv (Mashiv Davar 1:21) writes that Lechem Mishna can be two slices of bread, and not two whole challas.

[7] See Orach Chaim 262:3.

[8] In a similar fashion, the Chassam Sofer commented on לחזות בנועם ה’ (“to behold the sweetness of Hashem”), that Hashem should get pleasure from the way we serve him. There is a concept that Mitzvos actually cry out to a person to fulfill them whether it is the Mitzva of Tzitzis, Tefillin and the like. This is the deeper meaning in אשרי האיש שישמע למצותיך, (“praiseworthy is the person who obeys your commandments”): praised is the person who listens to the Mitzvos that are requested from him to fulfill them (שיחות בעבודת ה’, p. 15).

[9] R’ Dessler said that he remembers when he was around the age of 9, his father and uncle would arise at around midnight on Shabbos and learn together for about 9 hours until shacharis. His mother would also arise, and learn Ramban, Midrash and Malbim on the Parsha (Michtav Meliyahu, 1, p. 25).

[10] In 1995, R’ Yaakov Bender was traveling to his nephew’s aufruf which was being held in Stamford, Connecticut. Although he left early on Friday, he wasn’t able to arrive in Stamford before Shabbos, due to a massive snowstorm. In fact, of the twelve cars that left Lakewood to attend the aufruf, only four made it in time for Shabbos. With minutes before Shabbos, R’ Bender exited the highway and eventually knocked on some random person’s door. Although he explained to the Spanish woman who answered the door what Shabbos was, she couldn’t comprehend it. It was after sunset when he mentioned that they have luggage in the car, hoping that she would bring it in since he couldn’t tell a non-Jew directly to do melacha for him on Shabbos. She was happy to be of help and she said, “Sure you can bring your luggage in!” He explained to her it’s Shabbos and he is unable to bring in the suitcases. Then he asked for the bathroom so that everyone can get dressed for Shabbos. He saw the light was off so he asked her about it. She told him where the light was, but he explained it was Shabbos and therefore can’t turn on the light. Then she placed toilet paper in the bathroom and he explained that tissues are preferable because on Shabbos we can’t rip. After getting dressed for Shabbos, they asked her for directions on how to walk to Stamford. She gave them a pen and paper to start writing the directions until R’ Bender explained it is Shabbos and he is not allowed to write. Situations like this arose many more times during that brief stay in the Spanish woman’s house and he explained each time that it’s Shabbos and he is therefore restricted. In the end, they walked 1½ hours until they eventually arrived at the aufruf—soaked and soiled. When R’ Bender recalls that Shabbos, he says, “What an unbelievable, powerful Shabbos! I never sacrificed so much for Shabbos!”

[11] Tehillim 73:28.

[12] Toras Avos, Drachim in Avodas Hashem.

[13] Beitza 15b.

[14] Breishis 29:34.

[15] Shemos 32:25. The Pasuk זכור את יום השבת לקדשו, remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it (Shemos 20:8) can be understood in conjunction with the actions of Shamai. If Shamai came across a superior animal anytime during the week he would say this should be put aside for Shabbos. If he later came across a better animal, he would designate this one instead for Shabbos (Beitza 16a, see Mishna Brura 250:2). So, לקדשו is a contraction of לקדש ו, to sanctify Shabbos with the 6 days of the week, as ו has a Gematria of 6. 

Author of three books including the recently released Extraordinary Insights

Listen to the short Fascinating Insights Podcast at

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