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The Song of Shabbos   

If we truly cared, they would too. It does not suffice to keep Shabbos by default. We must be passionate about Shabbos

The current war, with its increasing casualties and the ongoing captivity of the hostages, is unspeakably painful. But the war has also exposed another, more subtle source of pain.

The initial victims of the attacks on October 7 were attending a Nova Music Festival. A Nova festival, for the uninitiated — as I was, until I was enlightened by a prominent rosh yeshivah, outraged that members of our community were visiting such an event — is a “trance” concert. These gatherings feature a certain type of rhythmic music designed to send its attendees into a hypnotic state, to achieve a sense of spirituality.

Whether this approach is rooted in avodah zarah is debatable, but as noted by Rav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky, in a video clip shown at Dirshu’s recent Kabbalas Shabbos event, this much is clear. The massacre occurred on a Shabbos, Simchas Torah. The multitude of acheinu bnei Yisrael attending that event were seeking spirituality and a connection to something Higher — something that they should have experienced from simchas haTorah and shemiras Shabbos. But because they were ignorant of the true form of connection offered by their own heritage, they sought fulfillment elsewhere.

Rav Dovid Ozeri, who was also a featured speaker at the Dirshu event, related two stories that really drove home this point. He had recently traveled to Eretz Yisrael and visited the “museum” of hundreds of burned-out cars. He noticed a secular Jew crying and engaged him in conversation.

The fellow shared that he was at the concert when the attack occurred. He had barricaded himself in a safe room with ten other men. Upon realizing that their end was near, one of them recalled that some special Hebrew words should be said before one dies, but he could not remember them. No one else knew, but one person thought that the words may be “sefer Torah.” So they all began chanting “sefer Torah, sefer Torah” as they were massacred. This lone individual had somehow survived.

Reb Dovid then met another secular Jew, who was in Kibbutz Be’eri during the attack. He had fainted and was presumed dead, so he was spared. When he awoke, he was lying on the floor and the IDF had just arrived. They took him to be one of the terrorists and were about to shoot, so he cried out “Shema Yisrael!” and was spared. Reb Dovid asked him if he knew the words that follow “Shema Yisrael,” and the fellow admitted he did not.

Reb Dovid noted how terribly sad it is that thousands of our brethren do not even know Shema Yisrael and have never tasted the sweetness of Shabbos. But the onus for that, he said, is on us.

Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin shlita recalled the Brisker Rav’s observation that almost all Jews know and observe Yom Kippur in some way, whereas so many Jews completely disregard Shabbos. The Brisker Rav suggested that this results from the inherent unity of the Jewish People. The passion that shomrei Torah u’mitzvos feel for Yom Kippur reverberates throughout the nation, so that even the secular Jews acknowledge Yom Kippur.

Conversely, a lack of appreciation for the gift of Shabbos in our camps manifests in the secular camp’s total disregard for Shabbos. If we truly cared, they would too. It does not suffice to keep Shabbos by default. We must be passionate about Shabbos. We must care about all its details. If it’s our song, it will be theirs.

Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos: Tov l’hodos l’Hashem ul’zamer l’Shimcha Elyon!

In fact, that phrase captures Dirshu’s Kabbalas Shabbos event, which served to kick-start Dirshu’s Daf Halachah that began with Hilchos Shabbos. Aside from the speakers mentioned above, it featured many other gedolim, including Rav Shimon Galai, Rav Sholom Smith, and Rav Shimon Spitzer, among others. Interspersed between these speakers were multiple musical interludes with renowned singers and chazzanim accompanied by a 20-piece band.

Reb Dovid Hofsteder, the nasi of Dirshu, cited the statement of Chazal that King Chizkiyahu himself could have been Mashiach, because his generation was so righteous. But the failure of Klal Yisrael to celebrate the miraculous annihilation of Sancheriv’s army with shirah demonstrated a lack of appreciation of the miracle. This resulted in the missed opportunity to bring the Messianic era. He implored the assembled to be passionate about shemiras Shabbos and seize the opportunity to become proficient in the laws of Shabbos.

The Song of Shabbos is not just the song that we sing for Shabbos. Shabbos is a reality and the day itself sings along when we are passionate about it. V’yom hashevi’i meshabeiach v’omer, mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos.

Rav Sorotzkin related that when the Chofetz Chaim finished Mishnah Berurah, he celebrated with a week’s worth of siyumim. On Sunday, he made a siyum on volume one and discussed its laws. On Monday, he made a siyum on volume two and discussed its laws This continued through Friday. Yet on Shabbos after davening, the Chofetz Chaim surprisingly announced that there would yet another siyum at his house after davening. The Chofetz Chaim explained that he had not intended to make another siyum, but on Friday night, Shabbos itself appeared to him in a dream and requested another siyum for volumes three and four, in which he discusses the laws of Shabbos.

Every song goes from a state of tension to resolution. Without the dissonance, and the anticipation of the resolution, the song lacks depth and character. The chapter of Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos speaks of the dissonance of tzaddik v’ra lo and rasha v’tov lo, the concealment of Hashem’s hashgachah inherent in the question “How do bad things happen to good people?”

But the ultimate resolution of that tension of hester panim will come during the days of yom shekulo Shabbos and will result in the ultimate song. The very concealment of our times, when resolved, will result in Mizmor Shir l’yom haShabbos, Mizmor shir l’asid lavo, l’yom shekulo Shabbos… speedily, in our days. —


Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger is the rav of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah of New Hempstead and the author of Positive Vision, a Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation project (ArtScroll/Mesorah).


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1016)

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