THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT YITRO 5781
BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER
[Dedicated to Dovid Zev ben Sutel, who is undergoing major surgery
Friday morning in Toronto, for a speedy and full recovery.]
Life has always been fairly unpredictable. The adage “If you want to make HaShem smile, show Him your 5-year plan” has never been more relevant. With health officials and governments still struggling to come up with practical ways to curb the pandemic, it’s impossible to plan five days from now, never mind five years! How will we celebrate Purim this year? And who with? What about Pesach? Or even Shavuot? Who knows?
This may be why HaShem fixed Shabbat to occur every week, week in, week out. Come what may.
We are first introduced to the concept of Shabbat at the Creation. “And HaShem blessed the Shabbat and sanctified it”. Last week, we are reintroduced to Shabbat when HaShem instructs us not gather the Manna on Shabbat. And this week, the observance of Shabbat becomes etched into our Holy Torah as it is prominently placed in the Aseret HaDibrot, the (so-called) Ten Commandments. But Shabbat isn’t just another Mitzva. It’s a defining one. It separates us from all other nations. Even someone converting to Judaism is not allowed to keep Shabbat, until the process has been finalised. Shabbat is ours, and only ours. As the Torah later states categorically, Shabbat is a sign between HaShem and the Children of Israel.
And unlike the Festivals which are governed by Rabbinical Jurisdiction in terms of the date and season and other elements, Shabbat is rigid, solid, unmovable, a firm pillar of our faith, and our eternal connection to HaShem.
The Mitzva immediately following Shabbat in the Aseret Hadibrot is honouring our parents. This juxtaposition is repeated in Parshat Kedoshim. And remember too that the very first Mitzva given, during the Creation, is to procreate. To build a family.
I believe the Torah is conveying a fundamental message. Shabbat and family are inseparable, and they complement each other. For many people, Friday night is the only night of the week when the family sit around the dinner table. HaShem gave us this incredibly amazing gift of Shabbat – as we say in our prayers Yismach Moshe BeMatnat Chelko, Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion … the observance of the Shabbat. What on earth would we do without it. We could not survive without this built-in infrastructure monitoring our time and priorities.
And HaShem also gave us the family unit. The focus on building the future, our children, and honouring the past, our parents. But when? Who has time for that? Who makes time for that? HaShem makes time for that. Shabbat makes time for just that.
No scientist can replicate the unique atmosphere of the Shabbat family table. It cannot be quantified. It cannot be defined. It can hardly be accurately described to someone who has yet to experience it. And the miracle is that it happens every week. Even without planning it.
Life in general is indeed unpredictable, especially now. So thank you HaShem for Shabbat, and thank you HaShem for family.