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Kenneth Cohen

Shabbat: A Pillar of Judaism

The description of Shabbat in Parshat Ki Tissa, gives us an interesting perspective of this holy day. This can be learned from the words, וביום השביעי שבת וינפש, “And on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”

Translating the word, וינפש, as “refreshed,” as found in Artscroll, does not do justice to that word. In 1963, Rabbi Charles Kahane, father of Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Nachman, published an expanded English translation of the Five Books, called, “Torah Yeshara.” The senior Rabbi Kahane translated, וינפש, as, “endowed it with a spiritual quality.”

This translation is not literal, but expresses the uniqueness of this blessed day. When observed properly, we are endowed with a נפש יתירה, an extra soul, that allows us to reach greater spiritual heights. Shabbat should be viewed as a precious gift, where we rest and solidify our bond with our family and Creator.

The sanctity of this day is felt very strongly in Israel, and particularly in Jerusalem. A siren is heard forty minutes before sundown, to remind the women to light candles, and for everyone to refrain from weekday activities. One can feel a special peacefulness descend on our Holy Land.

The quote that the Sabbath kept the Jewish people together more than its being kept by the Jewish people, is certainly true. It has been a pillar for us throughout the Exile.

In my experience, there is no comparison to the Sabbath of Israel, as compared to that of anywhere else in the world. It is very difficult to describe without truly experiencing it. Someone once said, that describing the specialness of Shabbat, is like describing a beautiful sunset to a blind person. The sunset needs to be seen, and Shabbat needs to be experienced, to fully appreciate their beauty. This gift is available to all Jews everywhere. It is one that must not be passed up.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at www.cafehebrew.com