Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Shabbos Mindset Nazir 28 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses a scenario where the Shalmei Atzeres, the Sacrifices brought on Shavuous were not slaughtered with intention of the correct sacrifice. On Yom Tov, it is permitted to sprinkle the blood so at least the sacrifice can be salvaged and eaten as an ordinary shelamim sacrifice. However, the blood cannot be sprinkled on Shabbos due to the rabbinic prohibition of “mesaken”, which is considered fixing or repairing on shabbos (see commentary of Rosh.)

I think it is a remarkable ruling. We intuitively understand that the rabbis prohibited certain activities on Shabbos either because they resemble a prohibited action and might lead to an actual violation, or that the activity somehow disrupts the sanctity of the Shabbos. Isn’t it strange to apply this ban on repair or fixing in regard to completing a sacrifice? There are other applications of this principle that are easier to understand and also still feel like an intellectual stretch. Such as, not taking tithes on produce on Shabbos because it appears to be a form of repair (Shabbos 142a) by making the food permitted to eat, and also utensils may not immersed in a mikvah on Shabbos in order to render them permitted (Mishna Berura 326:24).

These subtle forms of tikkun (repair) speak of a sensitivity to another aspect of Shabbos. The prohibition against work and creative activity is not the idea itself, but a representation of the idea. Meaning, there is a cessation of building and fixing functions that is only represented in a physical manner by prohibiting physical work. However, because Hashem’s cessation of work is not a human cessation, His Shabbos is about a deeper idea and a different kind of cessation. Similar to this idea, the Shalah (Toldos Odom:15) states that every word in Hebrew, the holy tongue, is a metaphor or borrowed term from a broader spiritual reality. For example, he says the Hebrew word for rain, geshem, is not actually rain. Rather it means the way in which God brings down sustenance and blessings from the upper world to all the lower worlds to allow for growth and development. In this world, rain is the physical manifestation of that, and thus Hebrew uses geshem as a metaphor to represent rain. Or, we might say, mother’s love is a representation of the Shekhina’s involvement, love and care in this world. So too, resting on shabbos from “work” is bigger idea than merely resting.

Another thought to explain why the Rabbis extended this prohibition of completing to such a symbolic extent is to stress another aspect of Shabbos: the sense that one’s work should FEEL as if it is complete. The Mekhilta (Shemos 20:9) says one is obligated to rest on Shabbos FEELING as if all his work is taken care of, even when it is not. This high standard of detachment from the mundane is also represented in the rabbinic ban on any form of repair, even symbolic forms of completion. In general, one can consider that various rabbinic prohibitions on shabbos are about cultivating a certain mindset. Thus, the prohibitions against muktzeh, discussing business, or having a gentile perform work on your behalf is possibly not just to safeguard against slipping into prohibited work, but also to create a meditative mindset.

This also can explain an unusual language regarding the Ribbon Kol Haolamim prayer said on Friday night:

I am thankful to You…for all the kindness that You have done for me and all that You WILL do in the future.

I am unaware of any other prayer that thanks Hashem for something in advance; it runs against the simple ethos of humility in Jewish prayer and self-honesty. How can one be grateful for something that did not yet occur? Similarly, the Torah only obligates Grace After Meals once one eats to satiation, see Berachos 20b-21a. (There is a special focus on precision and honesty in prayer, see for example Mishna Berura 46:33, 197:24, 582:16, 591:12, 623:2, .Baer Heytev 475:9, 591:8, Magen Avrohom 299:9, Also see Maharal Be’er Hagolah, Be’er 4:12. Also the whole idea that the rabbis needed to fix a particular nusach for prayer itself speaks of the importance of precision, see Rambam Tefillah 1:4 which implies this. In addition, see Zohar I:184a, where a similar idea is expressed, namely that one must pray with clarity.)

This unusual nusach might be suggesting the unique mindset of Shabbos. All your work is complete to the extent that you can achieve honest gratitude to God for that which has not yet even come to pass.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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