Well, here we are, it is almost one week in, and as we suspected changes are still happening. “The situation is fluid.” I don’t think I ever heard this sort of terminology before last week. Following the news and checking our phones like addicts who can’t wait for their next fix, only to be stormed with more and more doomsday predictions and apocalyptical prophecies. When are we going to get a break from it all? As I write these words, news has come out, that the State and County have more or less shut down life as we know it and we are instructed to “Stay at Home.”
Earlier this week, my brother in law reached out to me and asked me to start an initiative. He said, “Listen, we are home for Shabbos anyways. The pubs, theaters, and malls are closed. The parks and nature reserves are off-limits. The world is more or less already keeping Shabbos, let’s be proactive about it and encourage the world to keep Shabbos.” Rabbi Yonason Schippel, our dear friend and son of our beloved member Norma Schippel, must have read my mind and actually released a video to the same effect.
This thought was likely inspired by the fact that most of the laws of Shabbat are learned from this week’s Parsha.
Additionally, this past week, the Daf Yomi studied the Talmudic teaching [Shabbat 10b] concerning G-d’s greatest gift to the Jewish people, the Shabbat.
Rav said: One who gives a gift to another must inform him that he is giving it to him. As it is stated: “Only keep My Shabbatot for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations to know that I am God Who sanctifies you” (Exodus 31:13). When the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave Shabbat to Israel, He told Moshe to inform them about it.
That was also taught in a Baraita: The verse states: “For I am God Who sanctifies you,” meaning that the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: I have a good gift in My treasure house and Shabbat is its name, and I seek to give it to Israel. Go inform them about it.
From here Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: One who gives a gift of bread to a child needs to inform his mother that he gave it to him. The Gemara asks: What does he do to the child so that his mother will know that he gave him a gift? Abaye said: He should smear him with oil or place blue shadow around his eye in an obvious manner. When the mother of the child notices and asks him about it, he will tell her that so-and-so gave him a piece of bread.
A very similar passage in Talmud Beitzah [16a] is explained by Rashi:
צריך להודיע את אמו - לעשות לו אות וסימן שאם יאכלנו קודם שיבא לאמו תראה את האות ותשאלנו מי עשה לך כך והוא יאמר פלוני וגם נתן לי פת ומתוך כך ידעו אביו ואמו שהוא אוהבם ותרבה אהבה ורעות בישראל
Why must you make sure to leave a sign indicating the child received a gift? So that his father and mother will know that you care for them. This will increase the love and friendship amongst the Jewish people.
I was thinking that perhaps the reason why G-d says, “I have a good gift in My treasure house and Shabbat is its name, and I seek to give it to Israel. Go inform them about it,” is the same principle. G-d wants us to know how much He loves us and cares for us. He gave us a great gift, and He wants us to know that he did so.
Shabbat this week is a different kind of Shabbat. It is not what we are used to. It may not be the usual gift, but it is still a magnificent gift nonetheless. This Friday night and Shabbat day, is going to be 25 hours that will indeed be fluid. Our family will go with the flow. Davening, meals, walks, spending time together, singing, dancing, learning, joking and laughter, will flood our home. True, we won’t have our usual Shabbat structure, but we will have Shabbat. And we will celebrate this wonderful gift G-d gave us.
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Rabbi Avi Stewart
Rav of the Westwood Kehilla.