SHABBAT REST AND SHABBAT STRENGTH
It was very special seeing so many of you in shul last Shabbat, both on Friday night and Shabbat day, raising your voices in prayer and song. When we come together at times of crisis, we all feel stronger.
Please join us again this Shabbat. Large numbers of our soldiers on the front line are unable to have prayer services. Our songs and tefilot represent them as well as ourselves.
A passage in this week’s parasha shows us the special capacity of Shabbat to be a source of strength and comfort to our people in difficult times.
When the flood had ended, Noah sent out a dove on three occasions to see if the waters had subsided. The first time, the dove returned not having found a dry place to rest. The second time, the dove returned with an olive leaf in its beak. On the third occasion, it did not return at all, presumably having found a dry resting place.
The great medieval Spanish poet, Yehuda Halevi (1075-1141), wrote a song, especially, for this Shabbat. It is called: Yonah Matz’ah.
In the refrain of this popular Shabbat song, Yehuda Halevi writes:
Yonah Matz’ah Vo Mano’ach – “the dove found rest on it (the Shabbat.)”
But then he switches:
Vesham Yanuchu Yegi’ei Cho’ach – “and there, the weary ones will rest.”
At first glance, the two halves of the couplet seem disconnected:
“The dove found rest on Shabbat, and there, the weary ones will rest.”
He seems to be equating a time (Shabbat) to a place (and there)
Our understanding of the significance of Shabbat gives us the answer. It is described as Me’ein Olam Haba – “a foretaste of the world-to-come.” The Midrash says that the dove flew to the Garden of Eden. Shabbat is simultaneously a time and a location. Senator Joe Lieberman in his book, The Gift of Rest, describes experiencing the beauty of Shabbat in his home as if entering another country, which he and his family call Shabbatland.
In the Song of Songs the Jewish people are compared to the dove. Whatever troubles and challenges we have during the week, Shabbat is the time, when, like the dove, we can find rest. We sample a piece of paradise in both time and space.
So, here’s how to make the most of this Shabbat. Light your candles in good time. Come to shul and sing. Make Kiddush. Find a prayer that speaks to you and focus on it deeply. May our Shabbat celebrations bring strength and support to us and to Israel and its soldiers.