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Sabbath Radiance (Emor)

Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Among the many commandments included in the Torah reading of Emor is a listing of the various holidays of the year. Launching that festive list is the Sabbath. While the Sabbath is not strictly a holiday, and it does occur in a consistent seven-day schedule it, perhaps unexpectedly gets to top the list of the holidays of Israel.

The Chidushei HaRim on Leviticus 23:3 digs deeper into the significance of the Sabbath being considered a holiday. He explains that the nation of Israel is responsible for establishing the dates of the holidays. Holidays in Hebrew are also referred to as “Zmanim” – literally it means Times. Somehow, the establishment of Time is the domain of Israel and in some mystical sense, Israel creates Time. Continuing with this esoteric line of thought, the Sabbath is the “life” of Time, the kernel that allows Time to proceed. The existence and the observance of the Sabbath are the foundation for the continued stream of time as we know it. Hence, it starts off the list of all other holidays.

Linking these ideas together, that Israel is responsible for Time and the Sabbath is the foundation of Time, is the corollary that the Jewish people and the Sabbath are one. The Chidushei Harim expounds this parallelism from two biblical verses in which each one refers to “dwelling places.” The verse in the reading here of Emor states “it is God’s Sabbath in all your dwelling places.” The other verse in the Book of Exodus describes the plague of darkness, with which God struck the Egyptians, and the verse continues “and for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwelling places.” Just as light dispels darkness, the Sabbath dispels darkness.

The Sabbath has the power to dispel the darkness of the soul, to shine a light of spiritual radiance into the dark recesses of our existence. The Sabbath has the capacity to banish what ails us, to polish our inner selves to the point where we can more truly and clearly appreciate and connect to God.

May we merit to bask in the full radiance of a divine Sabbath.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To our son Netanel on his engagement to Adina Spielman of Bet Shemesh. Mazal Tov!

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and a candidate for the Knesset for the Zehut party. He is the author of three books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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