Shabbat or Shabbos... we heard it so many times, some heard it since birth if they were born into religious home, while others heard it from a friend, on a lecture or read an article about it later on in their life. This is the only question that is being asked most of the time, whether one observes Sabbath... when one is about to be hired, looking for a shidduch or some other important matter, but what is it? Why such importance is placed on this one day of the week? There are books and books written on this subject and if you search the Internet, there are literally thousands of lectures on importance of keeping Shabbat and its laws. So let's look into it closely, maybe we can understand it better...
The first time we see the mention of Shabbat is when Moshe Rabbeinu received the Ten Commandments. G-d said: "Remember Shabbat day and keep it Holy".
So, what Shabbat is all about?
A person is not allowed to do the 39 melachot or types of work on Shabbat, according to the Mishkan's activities with which they are associated.
The commandment of Shabbat is a sign between us and Hashem for generations to come, when one day of the week we unplug ourselves from mundane, and plug ourselves or shall I say flood our life with holy energy of Shabbat for one day of the week that lasts until the next week Shabbat comes around.
But I believe there's more to it, so please allow me to offer my explanation.
When woman lights the Shabbat candles, the Shabbat starts. Men go to shule for prayers, the table is set and everyone is in great mood. This is when the table is set with beautiful tablecloth, and set with fine silverware. The feeling of holiness is in the air. The food is extra delicious, there are more dishes taken out and in overall it feels extra special. Kids are sitting around the table, everyone singing, talking the words of Torah and simply enjoying each other's company. There's a feeling of harmony, and oneness in the family, love and comradery. This is the time when the family bonds and the ties of love between all the members of the family become stronger.
Suddenly, one member of the family gets up from the table and sits on the sofa, reaches out for the remote control and turns on the TV...and BOOM - all the magic suddenly disappears, the harsh reality of mundane sets in, the voices of the people sitting at the table become louder and louder, the situation switches from the holy to everyday and the feeling of holiness and harmony of Shabbat is no longer there.
This is how Shabbat is broken. The Holy Books bring some of the harshest punishments to the one that breaks Shabbat, but why go to such extremity? Why is G-d so harsh with the one that breaks Shabbat?
To answer the question above, we need to look into one incident in the Torah, and hopefully we will be able to look at this with different set of eyes.
In Sefer Bereshit, G-d created Heaven and Earth, then He created animals, trees, birds, man and everything else to support His creation in the livable conditions, after each day or work He said that - It Was Good - and indeed it was. Everything was simply beautiful, the sky with the birds flying around singing and enjoying life, the land with its animals and greenery, oceans with its creatures and above all there are were Adam with his wife Chava - everything in the Garden of Eden was in harmony and was simply beautiful.
Suddenly, the Snake comes over to Chava and while Adam was not around, talks her into eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which she does and then she makes Adam to do the same. And for this, everyone involved were punished. G-d cursed Adam, Chava and a Snake with the harshest curses for breaking His word.
Since Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge, their view of the world has changed in an instant. But more then that, something else has been changed or shall I say got broken. The efforts that G-d put in to create that perfect world that can coexist with its flora and fauna - its harmony and its magic was broken, evaporated, gone and simply faded.
Murder, rivalry, death, hardships, competition, diseases and more were introduced into the world. We are plagued by this till today and the whole world suffers. Turn on any media outlet and the negative news floods the minds of millions of people daily trying to sway them from spiritual truth and pursuits, we drowning in the lies and it seems that there's no way out. Go out into any social setting, and you'll see lies, slander, murder, and anything bad you can think of is done either openly or stealthily.
But I believe there's more to the curse of the snake. In Bereshit 3:14 it says: "Then the LORD G-d said to the serpent, Because you did this, More cursed shall you be Than all cattle And all the wild beasts: On your belly shall you crawl And dirt shall you eat All the days of your life."
In the beginning it may seem that the snake hasn't lost much, but the Sages say the real curse was that snake was walking like a human being in an upright position, but after the curse he has lost his limbs, thus had to crawl on its belly and eat the dust, which is plenty and all around him. He also lost the ability to pray or be heard by G-d, this ability has been taken away from him no matter the situation he may be in.
When person breaks Shabbat, he breaks the harmony of that day, he breaks the flow of the holy energy, he breaks the ancient creation, and draws more of that negative energy into this world, thus continuing the work of the snake. That is why Masechat Chulin 5A says, that he deliberately takes himself out of the covenant and sets himself apart from the nation - where he is considered to be like a non Jew. By breaking Shabbat, it opens the door to more transgressions, at which point they are committed without a second thought.
I believe we can even go further and say, that just like the snake lost his limbs, so is the person's spiritual limbs on his neshama atrophies so he can't experience the spiritual, and he pursues physical pleasures in this world. He may enjoy wealth and positions in this world since they become more available and abundant to him, because they become easier to acquire than spiritual items which require functional limbs, but he also loses the opportunity to have a relationship with G-d, and gets paid for any of the outstanding merits and good he may have done over the years in this world to enjoy his life, until he is ready to part with this world.
When a Jew dies, it is said in the Holy Books, that so and so is joined to his nation, his neshama is joined with his parents, grandparents and so on all the way to the forefathers, but not so with the one that breaks the Shabbat, he is not joined to his nation and his soul goes to a different place not where all the Jews are going, the cleansing process of the soul is longer, and when the time of resurrection comes, he won’t be joining his nation, since he is not part of the Jewish nation and his soul is lost forever.
By breaking Shabbat we are breaking away from our people, thus making ourselves an outsider not only to the religion, but to the G-d, to the nation, to the future redemption and vulnerable to the outside events and turmoil of the everyday life.
Our passed on parents, grandparents and the ones before them all the way to our forefathers are praying that we will make the right choice and embrace the covenant so we stay together after our passing as a nation.
The Sages say that this world is like a hallway before the Grand Ballroom. In order to get to the main room we need to pass through the hallway, make ourselves look presentable - by toiling in Torah and mitzvot - in order not to be ashamed in front of others that have passed before us, and not to shame our relatives because we lack in front of others present in the ballroom.
But, what should we do, if Shabbat was not on our To Do list as a major and important item? Start today, and keep some of it or all of it, and you will see how your life will change. Make an opening in your heart and let G-d enter and fill your heart, and let the blessings overflow into every area of your life. And when you do that, that's when your spiritual limbs will heal and get stronger and you will be able to easily grow and prosper in the spiritual domain. As it is says in the Devarim 4:4 "וְאַתֶּם֙ הַדְּבֵקִ֔ים בַּיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם חַיִּ֥ים כֻּלְּכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם׃ - While you, who held tight to the LORD your G-d, are all alive Today." With the turmoil that's going on in the world today, you can hold tight, only if your spiritual limbs are intact and strong.
So, why should we keep Shabbat? Because life is full of vanities as was told by Shlomo HaMelech, it is full of things that make noise but have no base and no real value. Loyalty to G-d, and to the generations of the past, and loyalty to your own nation - this is something worth living for, everything else is just a fading noise which is not worth pursuing.