Question & Answer With Yirmeyahu - Keeping Shabbos
A Simple Jew asks:
The Me'or Einayim taught that a person's closeness to Hashem is commensurate with his observance of Shabbos. A friend of mine once remarked, "Often it happens that we're so busy throughout the week, and when Shabbos comes we just end up "keeping Shabbos" without really experiencing it."
How would you advise a person to keep Shabbos in a way that elevates it to a level above mere observance of halachic detail?
Shabbos is a halachic institution. The Kedusha of Shabbos flows directly from the minutiae of halachic detail. I would rather keep Shabbos than experience it, because while there may be benefit in the later even on a ruchnius level I believe that the ultimate value is in the former. It is the keeping of Shabbos, the observance of Hilchos Shabbos in accordance to halachah, about which I believe the Me’or Einayim spoke as corresponding to one’s closeness to Hashem.
That is not to dismiss the question, but insofar as such a distinction was made it is worthwhile to remember which is the ikkur and which is the taful. In truth it is part of the answer. I believe that a major key in being able to experience Shabbos is to embrace it. One has to want to observe Shabbos, even the details, in order to experience it fully. Changing one’s attitude can be a difficult process but I believe that a significant part of doing so is watching the way one frames discussion about Shabbos. We must guard our self talk and not let any negative feelings go unanswered. And we certainly must be careful about how we actually speak about Shabbos.
I would also suggest that one area where it pays great dividends, throughout the week, to be particular about observing the details is Shalosh Seudos about which the Shulchan Aruch says to be “extremely careful to fulfill” (O.C. 291:1). Wash and say Homotzi (O.C. 291:5, M.B. 295:23) and hold it after davening minchah (Rama O.C. 291:2). I am very grateful that I have had two friends who, at different times, have welcomed me into their homes and instilled into me the importance of Shalosh Seudos. It has sustained me when I’ve otherwise been struggling in my avodas Hashem.
Going further I would suggest that one try’s to have Shalosh Seudos with chaverim. In addition to the additional chizuk one gets from gathering together with chaverim, it can serve as an apprenticeship for a more positive outlook when one sees others acting on such a positive outlook (even if they themselves are only elevated to such an outlook because of your presence as well).
And don’t be afraid to extend Shalosh Seudos or otherwise delay concluding Shabbos a while. It can take some adjustment but acting with patience goes a long way. If possible do not turn motzei Shabbos in a time to catch up on melachah…or entertainment, doing so just trains you to look forward to Shabbos being over.
There are many particulars to Shamiras Shabbos and it is an area where we all have more to learn. Many of those details can directly help us experience Shabbos rather than simply not desecrating Shabbos. We must be willing to approach it with a willingness to do what the halachah says we should do rather than doing what the halachah says we must do.