Parashat Kedoshim

Windows to the Soul

The commandment to observe the Sabbath appears in the first verses of the Parasha: "You shall fear every man his mother and his father and keep my
Sabbaths." (Leviticus 19:3).

The observance of Shabat is much more than a religious imperative, it is a spiritual need.

A few weeks ago, a member of the congregation who has started coming regularly to Shabat services told me how crucial it is for her to finish the week and enter the atmosphere of Shabat with us, with the congregation (even though she defines herself as "secular").

And she is right.

The concept of Shabat is so crucial to Jewish tradition that we remember it every day even though we may not be aware of it. In the ancient world the days were named after the stars. This appears in several modern languages.

Sunday is named after the sun, Monday after the moon and Saturday after Saturn. (In Spanish Wednesday, Miercoles, is named after Mercury).

But in Hebrew the situation is completely different. We have "Yom Rishon" (the first day after Shabat), "Yom Sheni" (the second day after Shabat), "Yom Shlishi" (the third day after Shabat) etc. In effect, each day we note how many days have passed since the previous Shabat and how many days are left until the next Shabat.

Why is Shabat so essential, even to those who describe themselves as "secular"?

In this day and age, people are more concerned with the health of the body than with the health of the spirit. The truth of the matter is that after all the tensions of the week we reach Shabat in a state of "spiritual pollution".
But how does the soul become polluted? It is easy to understand and discuss pollution in the Kishon River or air pollution, but …the soul? How?

This is my opinion. Our body has seven "windows". It is through these "windows" that the soul breathes, lives and relates to the world. These windows are all located in our heads. There is the window of the mouth. Two windows in the nose, two in the eyes and two in the ears. The "pollution" of the week enters through these windows in the same way that sand enters through the windows of the house during a sandstorm.

When we make "Havdalah" at the end of Shabat, we dedicate a blessing to each of these" windows". First to the mouth when we bless the wine. Secondly, we bless and smell the spices dedicating a blessing to the nose. Then comes the for the candle dedicated to the eyes and finally we hear the blessing of "Havdalah" which is dedicated to our ears. These blessings are in effect a gift and a shield for these very same senses just at the moment when a new week is beginning and pollution again finds its way into the depth of the soul.

In another week Shabat will arrive. I regret to say that I do not think that the coming week will be free of tensions and pressures. I do not think that the news we hear every evening will be particularly good…

But at least Shabat will arrive again, this gift of twenty five hours that erase a large amount of the pollution in our souls and improve our spiritual state. As is written in the Hagaddah of Passover, "If he had given us only the Shabat, it would have been sufficient.".

Weekly Torah Portion