Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann
Building a Spiritual Pipeline
"And it will be that on the sixth day - they
shall prepare what they will bring." [16:5]
According to the great teachers of Chassidus, the hachanah
(preparation) for a mitzvah is equal to, or perhaps even greater in
importance than the mitzvah itself! A prime example of hachanah -
one which is Torah mandated - is the mitzvah of Shabbos. In the
words of the Shulchan Aruch: "One should arise early Friday morning
to make preparations for Shabbos. Even if one has many servants, he
should make a point of personally preparing for Shabbos - this
accords honour to Shabbos. Rav Chisdah used to cut up the
vegetables (for Shabbos). Rabbah and Rav Yosef would chop the
firewood. Rabbi Zeirah would light the fire. Rav Nachman would put
away the weekday tableware and take out the Shabbos tableware.
Every person should learn from them: No one should say, 'It's
beneath me [to perform menial tasks of preparation],' - it should be
an honour for him to accord honour to Shabbos." [Shulchan Aruch,
Orach Chaim 250:1] The mitzvah of preparing for Shabbos is found
in this week's Sidrah, "And it will be that on the sixth day - they shall
prepare what they will bring."
When a person cries out from the depths of his heart, Hashem
gathers his tears and uses them to wash away his sins. The same is
true, says the Arizal (quoted in Shaarei Teshuvah [Orach Chaim
250:2]), when one perspires while preparing for Shabbos; his beads
of sweat are placed in a special container, and used to wash away his
Above all though, "Shabbos Kodesh" is undeniably a day of
spirituality. And what could be more befitting for a day of spirituality
than for one to make "spiritual preparations." The Mishnah Berurah
(in the same chapter that the laws of Shabbos preparations are
discussed) notes, "Sefarim write that on Erev Shabbos, one should
examine his deeds and perform teshuvah (repentance). Shabbos is
referred to as a queen, 'The Shabbos Queen.' When Shabbos comes,
one goes out to 'receive the Shabbos Queen.' And how inappropriate
it is to receive the queen with sullied, worn-out [spiritual] clothing!"
Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz, author of Be'er Mayim Chaim, was
renowned for his great love for the mitzvah of Shabbos. He asks
the following question: If, as it is explained in the holy Zohar, the
sanctity of Shabbos descends directly from above, completely
independent of our worthiness, then why doesn't Shabbos
influence everyone in the same way? As he puts it, "The tzaddik
(righteous) together with the rasha (wicked), the great and the
lowly - all should be equal when the day of Shabbos comes." Yet it
is painfully obvious that it just isn't so. For some Shabbos is a day
of great spiritual elevation and sanctity, while for others it is no
more than a day of sleep, and a break from work. Why is this so?
He answers with a simple mashal (parable). Once a man was
digging in his yard, and came across a deep well of sweet, clear,
spring water. Some time later, he served some of his friends a
glass of his well water. They were duly impressed by its sweet, pure
taste. "How can you keep this tasty water all to yourself?" they
asked. "There's no shortage," he answered, "you're more than
welcome to construct for yourselves a channel connecting my well
water to your homes."
And so they did. Each of the friends went out and purchased
supplies to construct a pipeline joining his house with the well.
Some of the friends had foresight; they made sure to purchase
only the best materials. They gave extra special care to seal-off all
the joints of their pipeline, and insulate all the pipes, so that
nothing could possibly spoil their supply of pure spring water.
When they were finished, their families were able to enjoy the water
arriving at their houses just as sweet and as clear as it had been
straight from the well.
Then there were others who were not as careful. They saved
money by using second-grade materials, and their sealing and
insulation were of poor quality and workmanship. Almost
immediately, small stones, dirt, and even insects began to seep
into the water flowing to their homes. Their families berated them
for wasting their time and effort on such bitter, impure water. They
were at a loss to explain "what had happened to the water."
This mashal can help us to understand, explains the Be'er Mayim
Chaim, what happens with regard to Shabbos. In truth, the
kedushah of Shabbos is sent from Heaven equally for each and
every Jew. But, throughout the week, we each construct our own
"spiritual pipeline" through our mitzvos and our conduct. If our
weekdays were pure from sin, then our spiritual-pipes ("tzinoros")
remain clean and completely sealed from all impurities, and
Shabbos can enter our homes and our hearts just as it left
Shamayim. If, however, our spiritual pipelines have become
clogged with iniquities, if there are gaping holes in our weekday
conduct, these in turn introduce "impurities" into the "taste" of
Shabbos which Hashem sends down to us each week. It doesn't
end up feeling the way it was supposed to feel.
Erev Shabbos is our last chance to do teshuvah and repent for
anything that might have gone wrong during the week. This,
perhaps, is the most important form of preparation of all. So, this
Erev Shabbos, as you busily tend to your last-minute shopping and
household chores, don't forget to take a few moments to reflect on
this past week - what went right and what went wrong - and make
sure your neshama is just as ready for Shabbos as your home!
Text Copyright © 1999 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Project Genesis, Inc.