In Parshat Ki Tisa (Shmot 31:16-17) we read a very familiar statement:
“Veshamru B’nei Yisrael et HaShabbat la’asot et HaShabbat lidorotam brit olam…”
“B’nei Yisrael shall observe Shabbat, to make Shabbat an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and B’nei Yisrael it is an everlasting sign; for in six days God made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day God abstained from work and God rested.”
You may recognize this statement which is recited on Friday night during the Maariv service right before the amida (silent devotion) as well as during the Shabbat morning Kiddush.
What do the words “laasot et HaShabbat” (to make Shabbat) refer to?
Saturday is just a regular day unless we consciously make it into something special. In order to do this, we need to prepare for Shabbat and get excited about it all week long.
Each morning, we recite the Shir Shel Yom, Song of the Day stating: “Today is the first day in the week of Shabbat…”, “Today is the second day in the week of Shabbat…”
The Mechilta states that other mitzvot are physically there for us to observe: We pick up a lulav (palm branch), bless it and shake it on Sukkot. We sit in a sukka, make the blessing and eat there…
Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that with Shabbat, we have to physically “make” the day better than a regular day. We learn this from the word “laasot” (to make a tikkun, correction).
The same way that Avraham hurried to “make” or prepare the choice calf for his guests (as he could not serve it uncooked) so too do we have to turn an ordinary Saturday into a special day.
We are able to transform the day when we refrain from melacha (work), prepare special foods in advance, recite special prayers and sing Shabbat songs.
As it says in Yishayahu 58:13-14: “If you restrain your foot because it is Shabbat; refrain from accomplishing your own needs on My holy day; if you proclaim Shabbat ‘a delight’ and the holy day of God ‘honored’ and you honor it by not engaging in your own affairs, from seeking your own needs or discussing the forbidden- then you will delight in God…”
May we all be blessed with a spiritual and meaningful Shabbat.