Thursday, March 2, 2017


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Terumah
5 Adar 5777/ March 3, 2017

A colleague once suggested that whenever an opportunity arises to discuss hashkafa (Jewish philosophical outlook) with students, I should grab the chance. Last week the gemara we are learning in class (perek Hakonais) mentioned the concept of melachos Shabbos, the categories of forbidden labors on Shabbos, so I used that as a springboard to discuss some Shabbos laws.
During the discussion one boy made a reference to playing basketball on Shabbos. I replied that playing an intense game of basketball was inappropriate on Shabbos. Even if there is no concern of carrying (because there is an eiruv) and therefore no problem of actual chilul Shabbos (outright desecration of Shabbos), it still is zilzul Shabbos, “cheapening” the sanctity of Shabbos.   
When I said that, one of my students muttered loudly “It’s forbidden, like everything else on Shabbos. So exactly what are we supposed to do?”
It was a strong comment, and it made me rethink how to present the concept to twenty-first century American kids. After a moment’s thought I related the following:
On Friday night after Shemoneh Esrei, in the paragraph that begins Magen Avos, we state, “Before Him we will serve with fear and trepidation.” It seems strange that on a day of “Ahava V’ratzon - Love and Favor” we mention feeling fearful and awestruck.
I continued: “In a few years, with the help of Hashem, when you get engaged, you will visit the home of your kallah for Shabbos for the first time. Your future in-laws will bend over backwards to treat you royally, and there will be a general feeling of great excitement in the home. They will roll out the proverbial red carpet and honor you in any way they can. You too will be extremely excited and will revel in the honor being accorded to you. And yet, you will also feel a measure of apprehension and nervousness. You will be wary not to tarnish the elite image they have of you, and you will want to make sure that their joy in welcoming you to the family is well-founded.
“Although you will feel somewhat inhibited since you have to act more nobly than you would otherwise, it will be well-worth the sacrifice, to have the opportunity to spend Shabbos with your kallah, and to be welcomed in to her family with open arms. 
“Every Shabbos, we are elevated and united in the embrace of the Divine, as it were. It is a day filled with love and closeness. If one can realize that, it is inevitable that he will also feel a sense of awe and trepidation so as not to desecrate that holy atmosphere.”
I then added one more point: “When you are courting your kallah, you will hardly be able to do enough to honor her and to express your excitement to be marrying her. You will want to know her favorite restaurants and foods, and exactly how she likes them. You will want to know her hobbies and what she enjoys, and then you will seek to capitalize on that knowledge in ways that appeal uniquely to her. You will not be able to stop thinking about her no matter what you are doing, and you will hardly be able to do enough to profess your complete devotion to her.
“If you understand that Shabbos is like our kallah, excitedly awaiting each week for us to lovingly welcome her in, keeping the myriad halachos has a different connotation. The laws and restrictions are no longer what we have to do, but what we want to do.”
I suggested to my students that they purchase one of the sets of hilchos Shabbos in English, so that when they have a question regarding hilchos Shabbos, they can look up the halacha for themselves, and understand some of the background behind the halacha.   
Psychologists say that when parents are setting rules in their home, it is best to involve the children in the parameters of the those rules. This is accomplished when parents sit down with their children and ask questions like, “When do you think is a fair bedtime?” or “Which chores would you like to contribute to the family?” Although, ultimately the parents have the final say and at times must exercise that parental authority, the more the child feels part of the process the more he/she will respect the rules.  
In regards to halacha too, when one understands the basis and logic of the restriction, it is far easier to adhere to it, and want to adhere to it, than if it is simply presented as just another prohibition.
I concluded by telling my student that if Shabbos is so overbearing for him that he will c’v hate it, then he is better off playing basketball. However, he should at least be aware that doing so is not ideal. He should aspire for a deeper appreciation of the great day, when he will realize on his own that playing an intense game is incongruous with the sanctity of Shabbos.
In general, we should not be satisfied with just going through the motions and doing what we must do. Such observance is monotonous, at best. The goal is for us to feel connected and elevated through every facet of Avodas Hashem.
When Haman sought to convince Achashveirosh of the detriment of the Jewish nation, he began his diatribe by saying, “Yeshno am echad- there is one nation”.
The Gemarah (Megillah 13b) explains that “Yeshno” means “Yeshinim – sleeping”. Haman was alluding to the fact that the Jews were sleeping in their performance of mitzvos.
Kesav Sofer explains that although the nation surely observed the mitzvos, they were doing so lethargically and unemotionally, as if half- asleep. They weren’t derelict in their actual observance, but they were remiss in the manner and attitude with which they approached it.
The salvation of Purim occurred when they ‘woke up’ and reignited the spark of passionate devotion in every aspect of their observance – (Esther 9:16) “Light, joy, gladness, and preciousness.”
That is why the holiday of Purim is such an incredibly joyous and emotionally-charged day. It commemorates a time of national revitalization, when we ‘came back to life’, and rediscovered our inner fire, which continues to burn strongly within every one of us.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum