Parashas Ki Sissa

In this week’s parashah, the Torah states (Shemos 31:13):
“However, safeguard My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I am Hashem, who makes you holy.”
The Maggid interprets this verse using a parable. A cloth merchant decided to use some of his finest stock to have a suit and a cloak made for his young son, and he gave the cloth to a tailor for this purpose. The tailor finished the suit and gave it to the merchant, who, in turn, gave it to his son. The lad was thrilled with the beautiful suit; right away, he put it on and went out to show it off. But after a short while, a bully pushed him into the mud, and the suit got stained all over. Some time later, the cloak was finished. When the father gave it to his son, he cautioned him: “Be careful, my son, with this beautiful cloak and make sure you keep it from getting stained – for it alone will prove that the clothes you are wearing are of the finest quality, and the dingy appearance of the suit is just due to a mishap.”
The parallel is as follows. Hashem fashioned various mitzvos to make man eminent. The mitzvos fortify man’s soul. To a person with a clear intellect, whose mind is free of the agitation of passion, the mitzvos are just as pleasureable as the activities that fortify the body, such as eating and drinking. Hashem intended for man to sense the sweetness of mitzvos, and He initially endowed him with the capacity to do so; as the Rambam teaches in Moreh Nevuchim, Part 1, Chapter 2, Adam HaRishon was created with a perfect intellect. But when Adam sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he became suffused with passion. At that point, man lost the capacity to feel the pleasure of the mitzvos, and they became a burden.
Ultimately Hashem will free us of the scourge of passion, and the mitzvos will then be pleasurable once again. Thus, the Torah states (Devarim 30:6): “Hashem shall circumsize your heart and the hearts of your offspring, to love Hashem your God with all your heart and all your soul, that you may live.” Similarly, Yechezkel declares (verse 36:26): “I shall give you a new heart, and I shall implant a new spirit within you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I shall give you a heart of flesh.” Here, Hashem will not be introducing a new creation that never existed before, for, as Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Koheles 1:9), it is not His way to introduce new creations. Rather, Hashem will simply be restoring the state that existed before Adam’s sin.
There is one mitzvah, however, that remains in its original splendid state: the mitzvah of Shabbos. On Shabbos, we wear fine clothes and dine on delicacies, and through such pleasurable means we draw close to Hashem and earn eternal reward. Why is Shabbos different from all other mitzvos? The mitzvah of Shabbos is different because, at the time Adam sinned, this mitzvah had not yet been given to him. Shabbos therefore was not sullied by the sin – it remained intact. In the verse we opened with, Hashem cautions us to safeguard Shabbos, just as the father in the parable cautioned his son to safeguard the cloak. And then Hashem gives the reason: “for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I am Hashem, who makes you holy.” In Yalkut Shimoni I:390, the Midrash remarks that Shabbos ushers us toward the sanctity of the world to come. The pleasure of Shabbos is a sign that all mitzvos are in essence pleasurable, and that ultimately, when our souls are purified in the end of days, we will feel this pleasure.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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