On the way to the banquet

Friday, 18 February, 2022 - 4:03 am

He sat next to me on the bus on the way to the main banquet of the World Conference of Shluchim. He is a shaliach of my age, somewhere in the world. After a short getting-to-know- you conversation he said, “I would like to work out with you a matter that is disturbing me.” I thought he was about to bring up a “standard” dilemma in the life of a shaliach – perhaps what to say to a regular donator whose feelings were hurt, or how to start a new class. But he lowered his eyes for a minute and said: “Don’t expect some great issue. This is not something that is dealt with in the shluchim’s workshops. It’s not in the conference’s schedule. It’s just a small thing, but, as I said already, I find it disturbing.” 

Well, like most of us, his life had fallen into a routine and slowly he began to feel that there is a lack of feeling of kedusha, sanctity, in the family’s life. Everybody was of course observing mitzvot properly, but mostly out of habit, and he felt that there was something lacking and that he wanted Hashem to be more present in his home. 

I listened carefully to the end. I admired his courage to speak so openly about such an important issue, even if it’s not so popular and not discussed very much. I thought that it is really beautiful, that on the way to the grandiose event of the World Conference of Shluchim, an event in which VIP’s will gather and speak about the Rebbe’s actions and his shluchim, he, the shaliach sitting next to me, did not lose his way and managed to focus on something relevant to him. But most of all, his words touched me deeply, because I too felt like him during that period about my home and my family. Therefore, I also had a ready answer for him, based on the pasuk in this week’s parasha, Ki Tisa, about Shabbat.

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, Now you speak to Bnei Yisrael, saying: However, you must observe My Shabattot, for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations to know that I am Hashem, Who makes you holy.” There is probably quite a bit to learn from this pasuk, especially about the relationship between building the Mishkan and observing the Shabbat laws. But I read the pasuk in its most simple sense: Do you want to bring Hashem into your home? Invest in Shabbat, because “it is a sign between Me and you.” Do you want to add holiness at home? Shabbat is the key. For it says, “to know that I am Hashem, Who makes you holy.” If Shabbat is just another day during which one goes to shul, and the Friday night meal is just another meal with a few extra dishes, then the Shabbat will have less of an influence on the home. But if we relate to Shabbat as the connecting factor between the days of the week, if we see it as the central day of the week, the whole household will look different.

My advice to my new friend was very simple and practical – make the Shabbat holy, and it will make your home holy. Relate to Shabbat seriously, as one relates to something especially important. Take upon yourself to think during the week how to upgrade the Shabbat meals. I don’t mean in terms of food and table-setting – that’s very important, but we have not gathered together in order to load more tasks on your wife. We came to talk about me and you. And so, sit down on Thursday to prepare a nice story that will be suitable for the Shabbat meal; perhaps also a joke, and if you’re up to it, maybe also a small quiz. And when you prepare a story, try to think how you can tell it so that your children will enjoy it. we don’t always know how to tell a story so that the children will find it gripping. A first grade teacher doesn’t know how to teach teenagers in a yeshiva, but a Rabbi in a yeshiva for adults doesn’t necessarily know, or is able, to teach first grade children. So one ought to put some thought into it, and maybe consult with someone. Sometimes it is necessary to think of some suitable parable or of an example from the child’s daily life. In short, run your Shabbat table in a way that will make the family await it, that it will be exciting. This is not always easy, but it is definitely possible, each person according to his abilities and the makeup of his household and guests. 

The Rebbe quoted many times the words of the Zohar, “Shabbat, from it all the days are blessed,” both the days before Shabbat and the days after it. It blesses in both directions. These are not just pretty words; they have a practical meaning, “for it is a sign between Me and You.” Sanctify the Shabbat and it will sanctify your home.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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