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Parasha Insights

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

How is your schedule looking next week? Shouldn’t really talk about it on Shabbat, but I am asking as this question has a specific lesson to teach.

We are grateful to be living in one of the most advanced nations in the world, at one of the most advanced times in history. So many luxuries out there ready for the take and yet we seem so busy.

Not so long ago we would rely on our memory, whether it was in school math exams, or with car directions. Nowadays we rely on digital calculators, mobile phones and electronic calendars with reminders to keep us afloat.

How many reminders have you set yourself this year in your calendar?

Have you ever forgotten a sibling’s birthday? Need a reminder for an important meeting or Dr’s appointment? It’s all done now at the tip of your finger tips. You can even set yourself weekly or annual reminders.

We rely heavily on these reminders to keep us going.

There is a special day once a week for which our Sages advise that we should set a reminder.

The Gemara Shabbat (35b) describes a custom that was observed each week before Shabbat during Talmudic times. A person would climb onto the rooftop of a tall building in the town and blow six Shofar blasts. Specifically, he would twice blow the series of Teki’a-Teru’a-Teki’a. The Gemara explains the significance of each Shofar blast. The first, served as a warning to the farmers working in the fields outside the city that they must put down their tools and start making their way back home to prepare for Shabbat. The second Shofar blast alerted the shopkeepers in the city that the time has come to close their stores, and the third indicated the time to light the Shabbat candles. The final Shofar blasts indicated the onset of Shabbat.

The person blowing the Shofar would then put down the Shofar and come down from the rooftop, as Shabbat begun.

Thus Shabbat was sanctified publicly by blowing the Shofar and privately by kindling lights (Tanhuma Matot 2).

Interestingly, the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 256) records this practice, noting that it was observed during the times when the Jewish people lived securely under self-rule. Even though this custom does not appear to have any practical ramifications for the Shulhan Aruch’s time, he nevertheless found it necessary to mention this custom.

The Kaf Ha’haim (Rav Yaakov Haim Sofer, Baghdad-Israel, 1870-1939) writes that this Halacha should be followed in places where Jews enjoy control over their communities and do not fear the local gentile population. Under such circumstances, a public proclamation of the onset of Shabbat should be made, if not with a Shofar, then with some other medium, such as a siren or a bell. Indeed, the Kaf Ha’haim records various customs that were practiced in several Jewish communities to announce the onset of Shabbat. He writes that in Jerusalem, the Rabbis would dispatch messengers just before Shabbat to instruct the storekeepers to close their shops, warning that they would not receive blessing from any profits earned from sales made after that point.

Today in many cities in Israel, loud Jewish music is played just before the onset of Shabbat to remind the people and get them into the mood of this auspicious day.

In fact there is a custom in Kabalat Shabbat to recite six psalms of nature which correspond to the six days of Creation. These also signify the six Shofar blasts that were sounded on Erev Shabbat.

R Moshe Chorev Shlita observes that there is an interesting note that appears in this week’s Parasha in one Pasuk six times.

The torah relates that the spiritual food enjoyed by the Bnei Yisrael (Manna) fell daily, except on Shabbat. To make up for this two portions fell on Friday signifying the preparation of Shabbat to be done the day before.

‘’See that Hashem has given you the Shabbat; therefore He gives you on the sixth day food for two days. You should remain – each man – in his place; let not any man go out from his place on the Seventh Day.’’ (Shemot 16:29)

In Sephardic communities this note is called Shofar holech – literally – a horn going forward.

R Moshe explains that this is to hint to the six Shofar blasts that were sounded as a reminder and preparing the people every Erev Shabbat.

Even from the start of the week we already have an established relationship with Shabbat.

In Shemot (20:8) the Torah states: “Remember the Shabbat to keep it holy.” Based on this, the Mekhilta comments that we are obligated to count the days of the week leading up to Shabbat. Accordingly, the Ramban comments that the verse teaches that we should remember Shabbat every day of the week. This is to ensure that we do not forget Shabbat and confuse it with another day. Additionally, this is also in order to remember the creation of the world and it’s Creator daily.

Therefore, the Ramban writes, our method of counting the days of the week differs fundamentally from that of the non- Jews. The non-Jews use unique names for each day of the week, such as Sunday, Monday, etc. By contrast, we count the days of the week with an eye towards Shabbat, as seen in the “Shir Shel Yom:” “Today is the first day in (the count towards) Shabbat.”

Shabbat is a day we remember and anticipate.

In an ever increasingly busy society, the Torah has already laid down the way forward.

Believe it or not, it could be forgotten!

So every single day we remember the Shabbat. Even more so on Friday, as we approach the Shabbat we are reminded by the six blasts hinted at in our six psalms of Kabalat Shabbat (and music in certain cities in Israel).

Winter is upon us, Shabbat begins so early and Friday’s are hectic. Yet we know that the enjoyment of a real exclusive Shabbat experience is dependent on prior preparation.

Don’t get lost in all that work, remember the Shabbat!

Next week add this to your diary; set yourself a reminder for this valuable day. Perhaps you can even add an electronic voice of a Shofar to make it extra special!

Shabbat Shalom

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