Payday| November 4, 2020
Disconnected from dollars and cents, Shabbos is still the source of all profit
Women can get pretty passionate about their challah. Maybe it’s an ego thing, but each of us is convinced we have the ultimate combination method guaranteed to produce challahs whose texture rivals cumulus cloud formations. Whether white flour or whole grain, spelt or wheat, fresh yeast or dry, we’re convinced that ours is the recipe for success.
Our obsession isn’t entirely unfounded; challah is indeed the uncontested centerpiece of our Shabbos table. As the prelude to all the Shabbos seudos and the raison d’être for dips and spreads, nothing says Shabbos more than the golden loaves nestled under an elaborate challah cover.
What’s the spiritual significance of our challah?
Tribute to the Mahn
“Vayevareich Elokim es yom hashevi’i, vayekadesh oso — And Hashem blessed the seventh day, and He sanctified it” (Bereishis 2:3). Rashi explains that the “vayevareich” aspect of Shabbos indicates the double portion of mahn that fell on Friday, while “vayekadeish” refers to the fact that mahn didn’t fall on Shabbos.
Sifsei Chachamim questions Rashi’s explanation of this pasuk. How does the double portion of mahn that fell on Friday imply brachah for Shabbos? Wouldn’t Shabbos, the day mahn didn’t fall, lack brachah, while Friday would be a day doubly blessed?
Additionally, why has Rashi linked both the brachah and the kedushah of Shabbos to the miracle of the mahn? Mahn was a phenomenon that presented over 2,000 years after the creation of the world and lasted for a mere 40 years. How does this short-lived miracle, two millennia removed from us, encapsulate the kedushah and brachah of Shabbos?
Halachah also attributes some of our most distinctive Shabbos table practices to the mahn. Shulchan Aruch (271) instructs us to insert a cover above and beneath our challahs. Mishnah Berurah, quoting the Tur, explains this is a “zecher l’mahn,” in tribute to the mahn that was delivered protectively sheathed in dew.
Later, Mishnah Berurah (274) ascribes the ubiquitous two challahs of lechem mishneh to the mahn as well, in commemoration of the double portion we received on Erev Shabbos. And the Rema (242) describes pashtida, a meat-filled pastry common to his era, as also invoking the dew that layered the mahn from above and below. (Perhaps this is a rabbinic source for deli roll?) There are, in fact, sources suggesting that kugel is a more recent incarnation of the pashtida.
Rav Chaim Friedlander, citing the Zohar, explains, “All brachah in the upper and lower worlds are in the merit of Shabbos. Shabbos is the mekor habrachah. The Malbim gives the mashal of a king who pays his staff on a daily basis.
On Sunday through Friday, they collect their dues, but on Shabbos, despite their faithful service, they’re not paid. Instead, the king negotiates the coming week’s wages for each member of the workforce with the royal accountant. The accountant then records the king’s decision, and on Sunday begins to disburse the workers’ salaries.
To a casual observer, Shabbos is an unfortunate day for the kingdom’s workforce; it’s the only day they don’t get paid. But in truth, the fact that payment is withheld on Shabbos is the reason it’s allotted during the rest of the week. If not for Shabbos, a worker’s salary wouldn’t be calculated, denying him his hard-earned income in the coming week.
“Vayevareich Elokim… vayekadesh oso.” The kedushah of Shabbos, expressed by the absence of mahn, is the basis for its brachah. Shabbos is the day we present ourselves before the King, and He “negotiates the salary” of brachah for the ensuing week. Far from being a day of deficiency, Shabbos is the source of all plenty.
Effort vs. Results
One of the great challenges in life is accepting the lack of correlation between effort and results. We’re raised to believe the more effort we invest, the more desirable the outcome. But as we accumulate life experience, the solid linear equation of effort-bears-results falters, and we’re forced to reassess.
It may present in child rearing: We pour infinite thought, time, and physical and emotional effort into our children. But it takes decades for us to see “results”: the mature, well-adjusted adult our child becomes. And sometimes the “results” are miles away from our intended efforts, and our child doesn’t follow the script we so meticulously wrote.
Nonetheless, we soldier on year after year, aware that even when we don’t see the fruit of our long endeavors, there’s a process occurring just below the surface, and He’s rotating the wheels toward this child’s destiny.
It may present in struggles for parnassah: We study and train and send out résumés and make cold calls. But it may take weeks, months, or even years from when we first cracked a book until we’re hired and promoted and earning a sustainable salary. And sometimes, the “results” never quite match the financial security of our dreams. Nonetheless we toil on, dimly aware that a process is in place and He’s engineering the circumstances of our financial viability.
In the enterprise of life, watching mutely as our linear equations crumble, we ultimately must concede that there’s a process advancing unseen beneath the surface. A process that responds not to a grandiose show of human effort, but one that is nourished through emunah and bitachon.
Shabbos is at once the mekor habrachah and the concealment of that brachah. It presents as the least lucrative day, but is actually the source of income for the entire week. It’s our reminder that the relationship between effort and result isn’t linear. Hashem may dispatch the result from the least likely of places. The day that seems to be most paradoxical to “payday” is in fact the source of our salary.
Cultivating the emunah and bitachon to maintain this perspective is a formidable task. However, Hashem has given us an illuminator trained on His presence. Because although the mahn fell for only 40 years, it was preserved “l’mishmeres” in the mikdash, a lighthouse of faith for Klal Yisrael.
Whenever they might waver in emunah and bitachon, momentarily forgetting Who is turning the wheels, the mahn was there to remind them that effort planted in one place may yield results in a disparate time and place. Of the fact that what seems to be deficiency may in fact be the source of all brachah. Of the Abiding Force Who propels a process in places we can’t see.
Today, bereft of our Mikdash, we cannot gaze upon the mahn for inspiration. But Hashem commanded us to take two challahs at every Shabbos meal in its place. They are our tzintzenes hamahn, our weekly reminder that all the brachah we wish has its source in this day.
Even when, like the challahs concealed beneath the cover, it’s least apparent.
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz has been teaching in seminaries for nearly 20 years.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 716)
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