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This is the last Shabbos of the year 5773, which brings with it many opportunities. The Talmud teaches us, “The way we finish something off, has the most significant impact.”
Thus, if we give special attention to the holiness and sanctity of this Shabbos, it affects our standing regarding all the Shabbosos of the year.
I recently had a conversation with a friend, whose daughter is spending the year teaching in a remote primitive village in Africa. He just returned from visiting her and he described to me the experience. Basically, all the amenities we enjoy and take for granted were either limited or non-existent, yet she feels that the gratification of her assignment overrides all inconveniences.
Our discussion led us to analyze our lives and lifestyles to see if there is any time that we deliberately deprive ourselves from amenities or comforts. The observance of Shabbos came up in our discussion. Since there are a host of things that we cannot do or perform on Shabbos, one might consider this an exercise in deprivation.
However, from the perspective of a Shabbos observer, if one gives some prior thought and strategic planning, almost all our basic amenities can be enjoyed in the comfort of our homes. When all is set in place, there is nothing more pleasurable, rewarding and gratifying then experiencing the beauty and serenity of Shabbos.
Referring to this the Talmud says, “He who prepares on Erev Shabbos, will eat on Shabbos.”
We know that the act of cooking is prohibited on Shabbos. However, that does not preclude us from enjoying hot food on Shabbos. Quite the opposite; it is our custom to specifically enjoy hot food during the Shabbos day meal – this is usually fulfilled with what is commonly known as Cholent, which is prepared before Shabbos and left on a heated element until the meal is served.
So too, with other amenities, such as lights, A/C, heat etc. With a bit of planning and foresight they can all be enjoyed without actively turning them on or off on Shabbos. Yes, Shabbos has restrictions; no facebook, music, TV, phone, apps and instant communication, but at the same time it gives us the opportunity to exercise what seems to be quickly becoming a lost art, and that is, direct face to face communication without being distracted by all the gadgets we have grown so dependent on.
Just as when our phone contracts become due, we look into the various upgrades, so too, as we approach Rosh Hashana our contracts are up for renewal and is certainly worthwhile to take the time out to look into a possible personal spiritual upgrade. All through the year, during the Mussaf service on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh, we recite special prayers to receive blessings for the upcoming month, and the Chazan – leader of the service – while holding the Torah scroll, announces the days of the coming week when Rosh Chodesh will fall.
On the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Tishrei (Rosh Hashana) this ritual is not preformed. The question is why not? An answer given is, we don’t announce the coming of Rosh Chodesh so that the Satan, the prosecutor on High, will not become aware that the Day of Judgment is approaching. He will be caught by surprise and be ill prepared to draw attention to the flaws of the Jewish people when he is summoned to the Heavenly Tribunal on Rosh Hashana.
Shem Mishmuel offers the following intriguing idea. The sanctity of the holy day of Shabbos is supreme. Rosh Chodesh – which determines when the holidays fall during the year feeds off the G-dly given sanctity of Shabbos. Therefore, we always proclaim when Rosh Chodesh will occur on Shabbos.
Historically the first Rosh Chodesh Tishrei coincided with the day when Adam – man – was created, which was Friday, the sixth day of the creation of the world. Since creation began on Sunday, there was no Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, and thus this month was not imbued with the sanctity of Shabbos.
As we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana – the anniversary of the creation of mankind – we copy the process of creation and do not proclaim Rosh Chodesh Tishrei on the preceding Shabbos. Thus we will take to heart, that this coming Rosh Hashana we will essentially be going through a metamorphosis becoming newly created beings, similar to the creation of Adam.
Knowing that Rosh Hashana has transformative powers, boosts our confidence and serves as a motivation to capitalize on this complementary gift of renewal and take advantage of the opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation, connection and promotion for the coming year!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks