A Year Empowered by Shabbat - ראש השנה

Friday, 15 September, 2023 - 10:35 am

A Year Empowered by Shabbat

Shabbat contains two opposite elements. On one hand, Shabbat is referred to as Shabbat Kodesh, the holy Shabbat. The etymology of the Hebrew word for holy (Kodesh) is separate and apart. Indeed, Shabbat is the day when we are removed from work, uplifted from daily concerns and worries, and dedicated to holiness, spirituality, study, and prayer. 

On the other hand, Shabbat is a time of physical pleasure and enjoyment. As the verse (Isaiah 58:13) states, “and you call the Sabbath a delight”, implying that Shabbat must be a time of pleasure and delight. Indeed, Maimonides states: 

What is meant by [Sabbath] delight? This refers to our Sages' statement that a person must prepare a particularly sumptuous dish and a pleasantly flavored beverage for the Sabbath. All of this must be done within the context of a person's financial status. (Mainimudes, Shabbat 29:7)


Shabbat contains these two extremes because this precisely is the vision and ultimate goal of Judaism. The holiness and the spiritual experiences of our lives must infuse and permeate our physical and mundane existence.  

The Jewish people refer to the beginning of the year not as the new year, but as the head (Rosh) of the year (Hashanah), because just as the head affects the entire body, Rosh Hashanah affects the entire year. This year, when Rosh Hashanah begins on Shabbat, the entire year is empowered by the energy of Shabbat. We are empowered to infuse the awareness of our spiritual purpose within every moment of the year. No matter how mundane a moment or experience may seem, we can charge the moment with joy and enthusiasm recognizing that the moment is part of our greater purpose in the world, making this world a place hospitable to holiness, G-dliness, and kindness. 

Adapted from the Rebbe's Public letter, 18 Elul 5749 


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