Parsha sheet: Shabbos Shuva – The Point of Return

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Shabbos & Teshuva

To understand the source for Shabbos Shuva, how it is a fundamental landmark in the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, and how it is what empowers Yom Kippur:  The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 22:28) says that after years had passed, Adam Harishon met up with his son, Kayin.  Adam asked Kayin what happened with his trial before Hashem for the crime of murdering his brother, Hevel. Kayin responded that he did Teshuva and struck a compromise with Hashem (the Medrash explains that not only did Kayin get the Halacha of an unintentional murderer who has to go into exile, but even that sentence of “Na – v’Nod– move and wander was mitigated to simply being exiled to Eretz Nod). Adam hears this and exclaims: “such is the power of Teshuva!  I should have done Teshuva!”.  And he opened and said “Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbos”.  Adam learns about the power of Teshuva and then praises the Shabbos.  What is the connection between Teshuva and Shabbos?

When was Creation Completed?

The Pasuk says, “and Hashem finished (Va’ychal) on the seventh day and He ceased (Va’yishbos) on the seventh day”.  This is one of the thirteen Pesukim that the seventy elders had to ‘doctor’ when translating the Torah for Ptolemy, the Greco-Egyptian king.  They changed it to, He finished on the sixth day and He ceased work on the seventh day. Otherwise, there is seemingly a contradiction, if He finished on the seventh day then he did not cease work for a full day until the eighth day. Chazal offer multiple explanations to explain the Pasuk as it is written.  The two most well-known explanations are that Hashem was busy creating until the final nano second of Friday, so as it would look to any observer that He had finished creating when Shabbos came in.  But the truth was, that the work was finished just as Shabbos came in, but no work was actually done on Shabbos. So, both statements are true. He finished AS Shabbos comes in in a way only Hashem can measure but he truly ceased work already before the beginning of the seventh day. Why was it necessary for Hashem to cut creation so close that it  ‘kissed’ the coming in of Shabbos?  Another well-known explanation that Chazal offer is that Hashem indeed finished creating on Shabbos.  How so? “What was the world missing?  “Menucha” – rest! Come Shabbos come “Menucha”-Rest”. In what way is rest a creation?  Seemingly it means to just not work. What is it about Shabbos that it is an “active reality of rest”?

Six-Edged Reality

It is no coincidence that creation took six whole days, not more and not less. From the first moment of creation where all potential for all forms of existence were all concentrated under water until creation was finalized, we see a process of division and expansion. First, light emerges and is separated from the darkness. Then the waters are split to create open space. Then the lower waters are separated to reveal the earth.  Then vegetation and life forms emerge from the earth, celestial bodies emerge from the heavens, and fish emerge from the waters.  Reality emerged and branched out, each force in its own direction, separate from where it came from and separate from the other creations that may have come from that same point of origin.  The universe is in a state of expansion with each force in its own direction. That is the significance of the number six. Space as we know it is three dimensional.  Each dimension has two poles to it; length has one pole called ‘top’ and another pole called ‘bottom’.  Width has one pole called ‘left’ and another pole called ‘right’. Depth has one pole called ‘in’ and another pole called ‘out’. The expanding universe was made in course of six days, parallel to the six points of three-dimensional reality.

The 7th

If left unchecked, everything expanding in its own direction without any sense of connection or balance with the other forces of creation, the world would surely self-destruct. Either the forces of creation would continuously expand and invade the space of other forces which would cause them to negate each other, or alternatively, if the forces of creation expand infinitely in their own track, they would also cease to exist because the forces of creation need each other in order to endure. There has to be a force that halts the expansion, that can also serve as a hub for the forces of creation to unite and attain the balance for their interdependence.  That is the concept of the center which is in numbers the idea of the “seventh” and that is the secret of the seventh day, Shabbos.

Border of Creation

This is what Chazal meant to say: Hashem finished on the seventh day, means that He was “creating”, which means that the universe was continuously expanding, up to the very last nano second before Shabbos came in, so as the cessation of creation and the coming in of Shabbos literally kissed each other, means to say that Shabbos is what stops the universe from expanding out of control. That’s all alluded in the word “veychal” and Hashem finished which comes from the root of the word, ‘kali’, which means to give a distinct measure and also from the word ‘klal’ – generality.  Shabbos stopped the universe from expanding infinitely and kept it as one unified reality.

Absolute Final Destination

There is a higher level than just the cessation of expansion. It is the difference between simply ‘stopping to move’ versus having a destination to a higher place. Alluded to in the word “vayishbos” and Hashem ceased, means to say: it’s NOT that the expansion of creation simply stopped, as if it just ‘ran out of gas’ or was ‘blocked’ but rather because it reached the absolute point of rest where all motion ceases; the final destination, end point, and goal of destiny.  This is what Chazal meant by “what was the world missing? – rest! Came Shabbos, came rest.” Meaning to say: the world did not have an absolute resting point, a final destination to attain.  Shabbos is that point.  This is another aspect of the idea of a center. It is not just where all the other sides cease and converge but rather a place in its own right that is on no side because it is beyond them all. Geometrically, it is infinitesimally small to the point that it is just an idea. In Judaism we have a word for it.  It is not a physical existence.  It is a spiritual reality.  This higher place that is beyond space as we know it, is what we mean by “Kedusha”, which literally means ‘nivdal’ -separate.  That’s where sanctity comes from – the beyond. When reaching this “great beyond” is that you can import energy from there, and  all the forces that make it to that higher point are now at a central hub where they can exchange energies and enhance each other.  Both these factors are called “Bracha” – blessing.  And that is the secret, that after “vayishbos” attaining the higher point of absolute rest, we have the emergence of “Bracha” and “Kedusha” as the Pasuk goes onto say ‘and Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it’ and this is the secret that these terms accompany each other such as in the Kedusha, we first answer “Kadosh” and then “Baruch”.

Evil can only be Temporary

Where can evil exist? Certainly not at the end point where everything is balanced, let alone where we attain Kedusha and Bracha. Evil is selfish and only seeks its own self-interest.  Therefore, evil can only exist during the period of expansion riding the wave of the expanding energies trying to bend them in their direction, as opposed to directing them towards balance and a higher goal. Every force and every passion has a positive goal for which it was created, and the goal is the same for all of the different passions and forces, to sanctify Hashem’s name which is represented by the Shabbos.  Evil seeks to ride the wave of the energies and passions directed to its own selfish needs.  The time that  evil could exist is before the full emergence of Shabbos. This is the way it was at the time of creation.  If Adam would have resisted the temptations of the snake and not eaten from the Etz HaDaas, Shabbos would have ushered in Olam HaBa where all evil ceases and even the Etz HaDaas would have become permitted to eat. Alas, he succumbed, and it made it as such that the power of Shabbos has never been fully revealed within this world yet. The next major Shabbos in world history was the Shabbos of Matan Torah.   On that Shabbos Torah was revealed and the Jewish people were separated from the rest of humanity.  They even attained a level reminiscent of the level of Adam before the sin. The Shlah HaKadosh  explains that the power of Shabbos is spread over destiny, the first Shabbos of Bereishis is ‘Vayichal’ and Hashem finished creation.  All of humanity has the benefit of the Shabbos of the Genesis because it is what’s holding the universe together for everyone and that is the secret that the gentiles also have a seven-day week, even though they don’t have a Shabbos. The ‘Vayishbos’ aspect of Shabbos had a revelation at Matan Torah as the Kedushas HaTorah was revealed and with that, the Jewish people can start experiencing Kedusha on Shabbos. The Jewish people now live on a higher plateau than the nations of the world as a Holy and blessed nation. However, that revelation was not complete and was set back by the sin of the golden calf and there remains the Shabbos of the future, which ushers in Olam HaBa, the day that is Shabbos for all eternity which will be a world of Kedusha and Bracha and that is in the seventh millennium.

Moving towards Tikun  Shabbos by Shabbos

The Ramchal in the Derech Hashem (4:7:2) explains that we are moving to the great Shabbos of the seventh millennium in a Shabbos like pattern. He says we should view every week as a mini destiny with the Shabbos at the end of the week totally fixing and elevating the week that came before it, so as all the evil from the week no longer exists past Shabbos. The following week after Shabbos is like a whole new world with its own evils and challenges that are cosmetically similar to the evils and challenges of the week before, but not the same. If we would be spiritually perceptive, we would see that a whole week worth of reality was fixed and elevated and the following week the universe is on a higher plateau, but not perfect, and then comes the Shabbos that fixes and elevates that plateau and it goes progressively in that pattern until in the big picture, we finally reach in years, the seventh millennium where all evil will be shut down permanently.

Tikun is Inevitable

With these words of the Ramchal, we can appreciate what Chazal say in the Gemara (Shabbos 89B) ‘if your sins will be “ka’shanim” – like scarlet, they will be made white like snow’ (Yeshayahu 1:18).  The Gemara says to read “kashanim” as years, “like the years that were meant to unfold ever since the six days of creation”. In these short words, Chazal are alluding to everything we wrote above.  By the original plan, evil would have only existed for six days and ceased on the seventh.  This is what Hashem would have forced to happen if Adam would have passed his test. But because of the sin of Adam, it is now a thousand years per day until the grand Shabbos of the seventh millennium, but it is arranged already since the beginning of time, that  the maximum extension that evil can get is up to the grand Shabbos. Hashem is assuring us, no matter how bad we are,  He in His infinite power has already directed destiny that there is a time limit to how long evil can exist and then everything turns “white as snow”.

Can Man make Tikun?

Shabbos is made by Hashem.  It comes in ‘naturally’ with sunset Friday afternoon, whether any Jew will make Kiddush or not. It is not like Yom Tov that is sanctified by the Jewish people.  So also, in the big picture, we can be reassured that Hashem will ultimately bring the big Shabbos even without our merit and usher in the Kedusha and Bracha of Olam HaBa for whoever will be worthy to be around for it. Adam knew all this. Chazal (Midrash shochar Tov Tehillim 92) tell us that he was well aware of the power of Shabbos and how it is turning the wheel of destiny towards the grand Shabbos.  He knew this because he never saw darkness or had to face the hardships of life in general until after the first Shabbos went out.  That’s when he invented fire and also made Havdalah because he saw that Shabbos is a day of Holiness and blessing, different from the rest of the week. But Shabbos is Hashem’s day and he thought only Hashem can fix the world and rid it of evil, just like Hashem is the one who makes Shabbos.  From Kayin he learnt the idea of Teshuva, which has the same root as Shabbos which could be also read as ‘the return’ as indeed, on Shabbos the whole world ceases its expansion and goes back to Hashem.  Teshuva demonstrates that man can tap into the “Shabbos-factor” and use it to fix evil himself and that’s why Adam praised the Shabbos because he realized that Shabbos is the battery and light source from which man can draw the power to do Teshuva.

Shabbos Shuva & Yom Kippur

If Shabbos is Hashem’s great gift to the Jewish people, then our power of Teshuva must be different than the power of Teshuva that the Goyim have. The Goyim get benefit from Shabbos, even though it doesn’t belong to them, and therefore they can also do Teshuva.  Rav Tzaddok Hakohen from Lublin points out that the Goyim, like Kayin, or like the people of Ninveh, only have the power of Teshuva to the extent that they can escape punishment.  It’s called that they get “slicha umchila” – forgiveness but they don’t get full “Kappara” – full atonement in the sense of totally washing away the cosmic damage that their sins did, either to themselves or to their environment (they cannot damage beyond their own environment, but that is a longer discussion).  The Jewish people who actually have the Shabbos and have access to its full power can totally undo any cosmic damage whether to themselves, their environment, or in the far-reaching cosmos. It is because we have the Shabbos that we have the power to declare the Yom Tov of Yom Hakippurim – the day of great atonement where we not only attain forgiveness, but we actually wash away all evil from the world on that special day.  Shabbos Shuva is the battery and light source from which we draw the power to declare the Yom Tov of Yom Kippur, which is day when the universe is clean and there is no Yetzer HaRa/Satan on that day, reminiscent of the great Shabbos of the future and that is the secret that Yom Kippur has all the halachos of Shabbos.