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Torah Attitude: Parashas Noah: The worldwide Shabbos project
There is a worldwide Shabbos project to encourage as many people as possible to observe a halachic Shabbos this coming Shabbos October 24-25. Even the observance of one Shabbos is very significant and can have a tremendous impact. No doubt the reward for observing even one Halachic Shabbos is great. Shabbos is the foundation of our belief that G'd created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. If we rearrange the letters of Bereishis it forms the words Yerei Shabbos which translates into "be in awe of Shabbos". The Hebrew name "Noach" is connected to the Hebrew word "Noch" that translates as "to rest". The only person who fitted in with G'd's plan for creation was Noah who led a moral and ethical life. How fortunate are we to be the descendants of the nation that accepted the laws of the Torah with all the various boundaries that the Torah establishes to guide us to live a moral and ethical lifestyle. "More than the Jewish people has kept Shabbos, has Shabbos kept the Jewish people."
Worldwide Shabbos project
In the Torah Attitude before Yom Kippur we spoke about the importance of strengthening our observance of Shabbos this year. We also mentioned that there is a worldwide Shabbos project to encourage as many people as possible to observe a halachic Shabbos this coming Shabbos October 24-25 (for more information see - http://www.theshabbosproject.org/ ).
Just one more Shabbos
Obviously, it would be ideal if every Jew observed every Shabbos; however, even the observance of one Shabbos is very significant and can have a tremendous impact. I once read a story (in a book with the title Pomegranate) about an outreach professional who lost his five year old son. During the Shivah a group of teenagers to whom he had tried to reach out, contacted him and said that they had decided to keep Shabbos during the Shivah as a merit for the deceased child. Some people, who were visiting the Shivah house at the time, commented that they did not think this gesture had much value. The bereaved father strongly disagreed and said: "I would be ready to give away everything I own if only I would be given the opportunity to have my little so with me for just one more Shabbos. This is not going to happen. However, this situation has brought about that Our Father in Heaven is going to have a group of His children with Him for one Shabbos."
The Vilna Gaon writes in his letter to his wife and children that every moment that a person controls his speech, he will merit a reward that even the angels cannot fathom. Who knows how much reward a person gets for controlling oneself not to ride in a car, or speak on a phone, during a whole Shabbos? Similarly, the Chofetz Chaim once described the huge reward one gets every time one puts on tefillin. No doubt the reward for observing a Halachic Shabbos is even greater.
Foundation of our belief
Shabbos is the foundation of our belief that G'd created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. As it says in last week's parasha (Bereishis 2:2): "And G'd completed His work that He had done on the seventh day, and He rested on the seventh day."
Shabbos is so important that the Kabbalists quote from the Tikkunei Zohar that the very first word in the Torah "Bereishis" hints at the obligation to observe Shabbos. For if we rearrange the letters of Bereishis it forms the words Yerei Shabbos which translates into "be in awe of Shabbos".
It is interesting to note that also in the beginning of this week's parasha there is a hint to Shabbos observance. The Zohar explains that the Hebrew name "Noach" is connected to the Hebrew word "Noch" that translates as "to rest". This is the root of the word "Vayonach" used in the Ten Commandments (Shemos 20:11) to describe how G'd rested on the seventh day of creation, as we say Shabbos morning when we make Kiddush.
Noah led a moral life
The generation of the flood was totally corrupt, morally and ethically. They did not respect each other's possessions and lived a life of immorality. Their lifestyle was unrestricted and they had neither rest nor peace in their pursuit to satisfy their cravings. Their existence was the antithesis of the world that G'd had created in six days with Shabbos, the seventh day, as a day of rest. For G'd created a world with boundaries, such as day and night, and with periods designated for work and time for rest. The only person who fitted in with G'd's plan for creation was Noah who led a moral and ethical life. G'd therefore decided to wipe out all of humanity except Noah. Noah thus merited that part of his offspring would accept upon themselves to become Shabbos observant. Even before the revelation at Mount Sinai, the Jewish people accepted the laws of Shabbos (see Rashi Shemos 15:25), and at the same time they were introduced to the civil laws of the Torah and the boundaries that this entails. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein once explained why the study of Talmud in the yeshivot traditionally starts with the second chapter of Bava Metziah, which deals with the obligation to return lost objects. In this way, said Rabbi Feinstein, the young students are taught the importance of respecting other people's possessions.
Fortunate are we
We live in a generation that in many ways mirrors the generation of the Flood. How fortunate are we to be the descendants of the nation that accepted the laws of the Torah with all the various boundaries that the Torah establishes to guide us to live a moral and ethical lifestyle.
Shabbos has kept the Jewish people
After celebrating and dancing with our Torah scrolls on Simchas Torah, there is no more fitting endeavour than to strengthen our observance of the fundamental commitment of Shabbos. The well-known quote, "More than the Jewish people has kept Shabbos, has Shabbos kept the Jewish people" (by Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg better known as Ahad Ha'am) is very appropriate. May we all be inspired to observe Shabbos in greater numbers and with more sincerity and correctly, and not just this week. For there is no better guarantee than Shabbos to ensure Jewish continuity for future generations.
These words were based on notes of Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shalom. Michael Deverett
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