ON Shabbos, I heard a wonderful story.
One of our guests was Susan Lapin from Seattle. She said she had an aunt on the East Coast who was a longtime science teacher in high schools.
First she taught in Jewish day schools, then when she was around 50 she switched to public schools. The principal would smudge the papers that contained her age so as to keep her on — she was that good.
She taught into her eighties.
One fine day she found herself in the hospital with a cardiac problem. It turns out that tests had been switched and, in fact, she had nothing wrong with her. At the time of this story she did not know that.
A doctor, actually the head of the cardiac department in the hospital, came into her room and ordered her into a wheelchair. She didn’t know why, but when you’re in the hospital you do what the doctor says.
He wheels her into his office and says:
“I became a doctor because of a tremendous science teacher I had in high school.”
He pulls his high school yearbook off the shelf and points to a picture of a teacher.
It is she.
(And it was this doctor who figured out that there was nothing medically wrong with her.)
SHABBOS is Shabbos — one day a week, right? Six days are for work, and one day is for rest” (Exod. 31:15). Seems cut-and-dried.
Yet, I recently read a wonderful metaphor showing a tight relationship between Shabbos and the rest of the week.
Often, metaphors don’t work when they’re specialized. I am certain there are metaphors that only accountants understand — or only engineers, lawyers, printers, etc. Perhaps many will not get the metaphor that follows.
Then again, if a metaphor is from Torah, perhaps it will reach every Jew, at least on some level, so here goes.
We begin with boards. Think of two straight, wide boards, erected right alongside each other. If they’re not glued together, or enmeshed, the onlooker will likely say that here are two boards which comprise a single wall. If one pulls the boards apart a smidgen, one would probably still say they comprise a single wall.
How far do you need to pull the boards apart before they no longer look like a wall, just two boards? If you pulled the boards apart 1/4 of an inch, most people would probably still see them as a single wall. But at some point, the boards will be far enough apart that a person will simply say, “I see two wide boards,” not, “I see a wall.”
This comes into play when constructing a sukkah. It must have a minimum of two full walls plus a substantial part of a third to qualify as a sukkah. Many sukkas are built out of boards standing up. How far apart may the individual boards be and still qualify as a wall? According to Jewish law, any amount less than three complete tefachim, a Talmudic unit of measure of roughly 12 inches. Two walls a bit less than 12 inches wide may constitute a wall. This is called lavud, a kind of legal fiction that renders two visually separate items as connected.
SO much for the metaphor, or the parable. Here is the application (remember the distiction between three complete units, and a little less than that).
Shabbos is surrounded on both sides by three complete days. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, after Shabbos; and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, before Shabbos. Three complete days on each side of Shabbos. Three complete units do not serve as a connection between two items. Neither set of three days would be lavud, connected to Shabbos, forming a unit with it.
However, there is a Jewish law, derived from Yom Kippur, that Shabbos must begin a little bit before the strict time of its beginning, and end a little bit after the strict time of its end. This is called “tosefet Shabbos, adding on to Shabbos.”
That is why candlelighting time for Shabbos is 18 minutes before sunset, the actual beginning of Shabbos; and why Shabbos ends after dark, later than the actual beginning of night.
Yom Kippur is the tenth of the month of Tishrei (Lev. 16:29; 23:27), but the Torah also makes reference to Yom Kippur as beginning on the ninth of Tishrei (Lev. 23:32). Meaning, one should add on to the holiday a bit of time. One should start it a bit early. The same applies to all Jewish holidays and Shabbos.
If so, there are no longer three complete days on either side of Shabbos; rather, a bit less than three days. Thus, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday qualify as lavud, as if connected to the the previous Shabbos. And Wednesday, Thursday and Friday qualify as lavud, as if connected to the coming Shabbos. At one with it.
A Jew is never bereft of a taste of Shabbos all week long.
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