Kenneth Cohen

The Challenge of Shabbat

The Ramchal gives a summary of various commandments of the Torah, and demonstrates the areas where most people need some improvement. An example of how he shows laxity, would be regarding Shabbat observance.

Despite the numerous and detailed laws of Shabbat, the Ramchal focuses on two specific areas. The first has to do with our attitude about rabbinic laws.

He explains that it is known that it was necessary for the Rabbis to make safeguards, so that Torah law would not be violated. As a result, there is a tendency to define specific rules of Shabbat that are rabbinic, such as Muktza rules, and tend to rationalize about them.

There was a concern that people might justify certain acts, and say that, “They are only from the Rabbis, and I can be lenient.” I have actually seen people turn on lights with their elbows, and justify the act, because they reduced it to the realm of the rabbinic.

The second area of Shabbat where most of us need to improve, is remembering to make the day holy, by our actions. A big part of this, is what we talk about. We are certainly not supposed to talk about business on Shabbat. And we are meant to refrain from focusing on the mundane activities of the coming week.

Shabbat is a wonderful gift given to us by Hashem. We must remember to keep this day special, by following the dictates of the Rabbis, and by conducting ourselves in a manner appropriate for the day.

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