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21.02.2014 10:43    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah shabbat parashah vayakhel  

Description: Parashat VaYakhel: Avoiding “Fire” on Shabbat

Parashat Vayakhel begins with Moshe assembling Beneh Yisrael and conveying to them the command to observe Shabbat, singling out in particular the prohibition against lighting fires on Shabbat: “Do not kindle a fire in any of your residences on the day of Shabbat.”

Many commentators raised the question of why this specific prohibition was singled out from among all the many prohibitions that apply on Shabbat. Why did Moshe make particular mention of the prohibition against kindling a fire?

One of the answers that have been suggested is that Moshe actually refers here to the “fire” of anger. He warns us in this Pasuk of the need to avoid anger on Shabbat.

Medically, it has been shown that anger poses grave danger to the human body, and can cause high blood pressure, ulcers and other serious maladies. Spiritually, our Hachamim teach that nothing is more harmful and destructive for the soul than anger. And on Shabbat, we are especially prone to becoming angry. During the week, the family members are busy with their personal schedules and do not have much time to sit with each other, whereas on Shabbat, everyone is together in close quarters for an extended period of time. This offers a beautiful opportunity for bonding and meaningful interaction, but also allows for fighting and arguments. This is true in communal life, as well. The biggest crowd in the synagogue the whole week is, of course, on Shabbat. This is a beautiful opportunity for harmonious congregational prayer and study, but can also create tension and stress which could precipitate fighting. Shabbat thus offers us the opportunity for spiritual greatness, but also poses the risk of spiritual destruction by putting people close together and making them prone to anger.

An even greater threat, though, arises in the hours before Shabbat, on Friday afternoon. Especially in the winter months, when Shabbat begins early Friday afternoon, these hours are a very tense and pressured time. There’s a lot to get done, and people are anxious. And, while I have not conducted a scientific survey on the subject, I would venture to guess that the majority of household problems happen to take place on Friday. It seems like it’s always Friday when the shirt is missing a button or the oven breaks. If we took a survey of community plumbers, I imagine we would hear of a disproportionately large number of leaks, bursts and boiler breakdowns specifically on Fridays. This is the Satan trying to interfere with the beauty and spiritual benefits of Shabbat. He finds ways to get people nervous and agitated which in turn causes them to become angry and shout at one another, so that the family sits down at the table upset, aggravated, and not at all interested in sharing a beautiful Shabbat experience together.

“Do not kindle a flame in any of your residences on the day of Shabbat.” We are instructed to do everything we can to avoid this pitfall and make Shabbat the day of peace and serenity that it is supposed to be.

One recommendation is to have everything for Shabbat prepared early on Friday afternoon, well in advance of the onset of Shabbat, to avoid the last minute pressures that can cause a raging “fire” of strife and tension.

The story is told of a couple that was childless for many years, until they finally had a son. Unfortunately, however, the child developed a severe heart condition, and they brought him to the best doctor available, in Vilna. After examining the child, the doctor informed the parents there was nothing he could do. On their way home, somebody advised them to stop off in Radin and receive a blessing from the Hafetz Haim. The great Sage instructed that every week they should have everything for Shabbat prepared and ready at midday on Friday, and they committed to following this instruction. When they brought their child back to the doctor in Vilna, he told them that the child must have received a new heart, because it was fully healed.

If the President of the United States tells us he’s joining us for dinner, we would ensure to have everything perfectly prepared in time. On Friday night, Hashem Himself comes to our homes. It would terribly disrespectful not to have everything ready. Understandably, this could be very difficult during the winter when Shabbat starts very early. But throughout the rest of the year, at very least, we have no excuse for a last-minute rush on Friday afternoon. Friday should not be the time for long leisurely trips and recreational activities. Ereb Shabbat is the time for preparing for our special “Guest,” and the earlier we prepare, the calmer we would be so we can avoid the destructive “fire” that, when kindled, can take away all the spiritual treasures that Shabbat offers us.

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