What makes Shabbos so special that granted it to be part of the Ten Commandments? Rabbi Noach Weinberg zt”l, the late Aish HaTorah Rosh Yeshiva, used to teach that we constantly need to focus on what are the means and what are the goals in everything that we do in life. For example: Do we live to eat or eat to live?
Obviously, as much as we enjoy eating, no one would say that one of the goals of life is to eat. So too, we need to ask ourselves if we live to work or do we work to live? Is the famous American saying “time is money” true? Could it be that the goal of life is just to make as much money as we can? So here too, we need to stay focused that money and material possessions are only a means. And then, the real question is: What are we living for?
In order to answer that question, first we need to understand what is a human being? Besides having a physical body that requires its needs to be fulfilled and beyond the feelings of jealousy, anger, frustration, and selfishness, lies within every person a pure, divine soul that is its true essence. The soul yearns to be able to grow in wisdom and perfect its character traits. Besides that, the soul is imbued with the sublime power of giving, which is a Divine attribute that enables man to be merciful, to bestow happiness and to care for others. Above all, through its soul a person can develop a relationship with G-d.
Shabbos is a very powerful reminder that there is more to life. We switch off to be able to switch on; we disconnect in order to connect. We put aside all the distractions that pull us away from our priorities in life. Shabbos gives us the opportunity to spend more time with ourselves, our families and friends. By sitting around the Shabbos table in a relaxed positive atmosphere with delicious food, special treats, sharing meaningful ideas, getting the children involved and singing Shabbos songs, we are able to get in touch with our souls, with G-d and to nurture relationships.
Shabbos also has the power to connect Jews from all over the world. Wherever you go around the world, you can always count on a Jewish family that will host you. Just a few months ago, we had an opportunity to host a couple from Mexico that came on a tour to South Africa. They spent the whole Shabbos with us and with our many other local guests. Shabbos lunch was especially meaningful for them because they spent the whole day with us. They loved meeting new people, sharing different personal stories, talking about the lessons that the Torah teaches us through the weekly reading, just the whole relaxed, uplifting atmosphere. They saw that Shabbos is a connector for the Jewish people, no matter what culture you are from, how old you are, what background you come from. This is what Shabbos is all about and this is what life is all about.