Shabbos | Part XIII - History and Destiny
Updated: May 6
Shabbat is a day of history and destiny. As opposed to the Yamim Tovim, where the three Amidot of Ma’ariv, Shacharit and Mincha are exactly the same, on Shabbat each Amidah has its own unique text. Why is this so?
The Tur, one of our great halachic authorities from the Middle Ages, writes (Orach Chaim 292) that the three Amidot of Shabbat correspond to three specific Shabbatot in history: the very first Shabbat of Creation, the Shabbat when the Torah was given and the time of the Final Redemption, which is called also Shabbat. These three great Shabbatot of history are alluded to in the three Amidot of Shabbat, respectively: Ma’ariv on Friday night corresponds to the Shabbat of Creation; Shacharit the next morning corresponds to the Shabbat of the giving of the Torah and Mincha corresponds to the Shabbat of the Final Redemption.
This parallel is evident in the words of each Amidah. The first three blessings of the Amidah are always the same, no matter which Amidah is being said – be it on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or a regular day. The middle section, however, differs. In the middle part of the Amidah on Friday night, we find reference to the first Shabbat of Creation: Ata kidashta et yom hashvi’i lishmecha tachlit ma’aseh shamayim va’aretz, “You sanctified the seventh day for Your Namesake as the culmination of the creation of heaven and earth,” and then it quotes the verse, Vayechulu hashamayim veha’aretz vechol tzeva’am… “and G-d completed His work… and He rested on the seventh day… and He blessed the seventh day.”
In the Amidah on Shabbat morning, we find reference to the giving of the Torah. The middle section says, Yismach Moshe bematnat chelko ki eved ne’eman karata lo. Klil tiferet berosho natata lo be’omdo lefanecha al har Sinai ush’nei luchot avanim horid beyado vechatuv bahem shemirat Shabbat, “Moses rejoiced at the gift of his portion when You called him a faithful servant. A crown of glory You placed on his head when he stood before You on Mount Sinai. And he brought down the two tablets of stone on which was engraved the observance of Shabbat. As is written in Your Torah” – and then it quotes the verse – Veshamru bnei Yisrael et hashabat, “the Jewish people shall keep the Shabbat.”
The Mincha prayer in the afternoon talks about the Shabbat of the Final Redemption. It says, Ata Echad veshimcha Echad umi ke’amcha Yisrael goy echad ba’aretz, “You are One and Your Name is One and who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth.” The opening phrase that says “You are One and Your Name is One” refers to the time of the Final Redemption, when G-d’s presence will be felt in the world and everyone will see His Oneness. (Similarly, we say at the end of the Aleinu prayer, Bayom hahu yihiyeh Hashem Echad ushemo Echad, “On that day G-d will be One and His Name will be One,” which means the whole world will recognise His Oneness and His Kingship.)
Thus we have three great Shabbatot of history reflected in the three services of Shabbat – Creation, the giving of the Torah and the Final Redemption.
Shabbat: three days in one
This links to another idea – the mitzvah to have three meals on Shabbat. On Yom Tov we are obligated to have only two festive meals – a “meal” being defined as washing for bread – whereas on Shabbat we are obligated to have three. According to the Gemara, the mitzvah to have three meals on Shabbat is derived from the section in the Torah which describes the manna that fell from heaven and the commandment to keep Shabbat; G-d told the people that a double portion was going to come down on Friday and that on Shabbat they must not go out to collect the manna. In that section the word Yom, day, is mentioned three times, which the Gemara says refers to the obligation to have three meals over Shabbat – on Friday night, Shabbat lunch, and Shabbat afternoon (at Mincha time).
What is the connection between the verses mentioning the word Yom, “day,” three times and the obligation to have three meals?
Rav Gedalia Schorr, one of our great rabbinic thinkers of the twentieth century, links the obligation to have three meals to the Tur’s words regarding the three Amidot paralleling the three great Shabbatot of history. He says the three meals as well correspond to those three great Shabbatot: the meal on Friday night, like Ma’ariv, corresponds to the first Shabbat of Creation; the day meal, like Shacharit, corresponds to the giving of the Torah, which was given on Shabbat; and the third meal – Seuda Shelishit – eaten at Mincha time, corresponds to the Shabbat at the end of history – the Final Redemption.
Rav Gedalia Schorr explains that this is why the Gemara links the word Yom, “day,” to the meals. Every Shabbat encapsulates three days within it – the Shabbat of Creation, the Shabbat of the giving of the Torah, and the Shabbat of the Final Redemption. Thus Shabbat is actually three days in one, three times yom, and therefore we have three meals and three services.
Rav Schorr links this to another idea, and that is that Shabbat actually continues for three days afterwards. The halacha is that if one did not say havdalah, the prayer at the conclusion of Shabbat which marks the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the week, on Saturday night, one can still say it for three days after, up until and including Tuesday. (The only difference is that if one did not say it on Saturday night, one does not say the blessings on the flame and the spices. Otherwise the havdalah service is the same and one has three days to say it.) From Tuesday night which halachically is already the next day (Wednesday) – one cannot say havdalah anymore. Thus, the three days after Shabbat – Sunday, Monday Tuesday – are linked to the previous Shabbat, and the next three days – Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – are the introduction to the following Shabbat.
This concept of Shabbat being linked to three days has a number of halachic ramifications. For example, there is a halacha about not travelling on a boat on Shabbat. If one is going to travel on a boat, one has to embark at least three days before Shabbat. (Practically, if you have a question about travelling on a boat on Shabbat, ask your local rabbi for guidance as there are a lot of complex details. This is just being brought as an example illustrating that Shabbat is linked to the three days before it.)
We see from this that Shabbat is the centre of the week. It continues three days after, as evidenced by the fact that one can say havdalah till Tuesday, and the preparations for the new Shabbat begins three days before, on Wednesday, and as evidenced by the boat halacha. Rav Gedalia Schorr explains that there are three halachically significant days prior to and following Shabbat because each Shabbat contains within it three days and therefore every Shabbat has a week-long influence in three-day intervals – the three days leading up to it and the three days following it.
The week-long influence of Shabbat
Thus we see how the whole week is structured around Shabbat. Rav Gedalia Schorr brings as proof the Gemara in Tractate Shabbat, page 69b, which discusses the case of a person who gets lost in the desert and loses track of time. He does not know what day of the week it is, and so he does not know when to keep Shabbat. Given that each day might really be Shabbat, he has to keep Shabbat every day. Of course, the laws of Shabbat are suspended for pikuach nefesh, to save life, and so he has to do whatever is necessary to survive in the desert. However, says the Gemara, one day a week he has to keep Shabbat entirely and do no melacha, as if it is properly Shabbat. The question is, which day does he count as Shabbat?
There are two opinions in the Gemara: One opinion says that the first day he realises he is lost, he keeps Shabbat. He counts six days after that and then observes the seventh day as Shabbat once again. The other opinion says that from the day he realises he is lost, he counts six days and keeps Shabbat on the seventh.
The crux of the debate is whether one starts with Shabbat and then counts six days or one counts six days and then observes Shabbat. The Gemara says this debate is premised on the very first Shabbat of history. Adam and Eve were created on Friday; they went straight into Shabbat and then had six days of work following Shabbat. That is one way of looking at it. Or we can view Shabbat as being modelled on Creation – six days of work followed by Shabbat. Thus we have two models for the structure of Shabbat.
Rav Gedalia Schorr says, in the name of the Avnei Nezer, that this teaches us that Shabbat has two ways of influencing the week: it is the beginning of the week and uplifts the whole week flowing from it, and it is also the culmination of the week, and the whole week is a build-up toward it. Shabbat’s influence goes both ways – the days before it and the days after it.
History and Destiny
The three great Shabbatot of history reflected in the Shabbat prayers and symbolised by the Shabbat meals teach us that we relate to Shabbat not only as individuals but more broadly, as the collective of Klal Yisrael – the Jewish people. Of course, Shabbat is uplifting and inspiring for us as individuals – and as families and as a community as well. But Shabbat also has a historic dimension to it, which encompasses not only history but also our destiny. It is not only about the past, but is also about the future. It is about the physical creation of the world as well as the spiritual creation of the world – namely, the giving of the Torah; and it is also about the Future Redemption.
Shabbat embodies the destiny of human civilisation and of the Jewish people in particular. It underpins all of human activity: the world’s history began with Shabbat, as it was the very first thing man experienced after he was created; the pivotal, historic event of the giving of the Torah – the spiritual creation of the world – was also on Shabbat; and the final destination of the world is also called Shabbat. The physical world was created in the six days of Creation, the spiritual world was created when the Torah was given, and the destiny of civilisation and the Jewish people is headed toward the Final Redemption, when the world’s history will reach its destination. Thus all of human history and destiny is contained within Shabbat. It is the pillar holding everything up and the engine driving human civilisation and Jewish destiny toward its ultimate goal.