The Midrash says that when the Jewish people were gathered at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, God told them that Heaven would be their reward for keeping the commandments.
The Jews asked God, “How do we know that Heaven is so great?
In order to show them that Heaven is where we experience the pure and unadulterated pleasure of the Infinite, God granted Israel a small taste of that ultimate, blissful state – the gift of Shabbat, so that they would know the taste of heaven.
The Talmud writes that Shabbat is 1/60th of the World to Come (Brachot 57b). If Heaven is pure spirituality, then Shabbat is a taste of that experience.
The Torah says, “and God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done. (Genesis 2:3). Then it says, “six days you shall work, and the seventh day is Shabbat to the Lord your God. [On that day] you shall not do any creative work” (Exodus 20:9).
On Shabbat, we emulate the Creator; we “rest”, just like He ceased to create on the seventh day. The world reverts in a small way to its perfected state – to a fully functional and harmonious earth, requiring no human effort or intervention. Man does not have to labor to sustain himself.
Thus, physically complete creations, in attesting to God’s glorious handiwork, become spiritually charged as well. They allow spiritual forces to flow unobstructed from the heavens, infusing and energizing the physical world with spiritual vitality.
Shabbat, a time in which the physical universe is perfect, is a time of enormous spiritual potential as well. It is a time when the physical and spiritual worlds become aligned. On Shabbat the world is not only in harmony with itself; it is in harmony with God as well.
Shabbat is a time of both spiritual and physical enjoyment – a time in which the two types of experiences coalesce in complete harmony and together enhance our appreciation of God. The physical and spiritual all merge into one magnificent whole, serving as a reflection of the one all-encompassing God who created them.
Today, consider incorporating elements of Shabbat into your family life by instituting a weekly Friday night dinner. Unplug from the world of technology; no electronic devices, no television, no cell phones, no internet. Light the candles, make Kiddush, sing some songs, and share words of Torah. Try it for a few hours, and increase the amount of time as you feel more comfortable. The key is to relinquish control of the universe and get in touch with the Almighty, with our loved ones and with ourselves.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg