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Peninei Halakha > Shabbat > 01 - Introduction > 16. Shabbat, Peace, and Unity

16. Shabbat, Peace, and Unity

On Shabbat we connect with the Source of our life and thereby reveal that all creation has one root. Consequently, the world becomes more peaceful. The most profound opposition in the world is the dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical, between body and soul. When examined using “mundane eyes,” they appear to be fighting and interfering with one another. But on Shabbat it is revealed that the body and the soul complement one another, for the soul brings life and blessing to the body, while the body provides the soul with a way to express itself. Therefore, on Shabbat we are commanded to enjoy ourselves both physically and spiritually, through Torah study and prayer and through festive meals and sleep (see 2:5 below).

Other forces in the world also find peace on Shabbat. During the week it seems that everyone competes and fights over money, honor, and adulation, and one person’s gain is another person’s loss. This leads to a world of dispute, in which the wicked, those who hate Israel, succeed. But on Shabbat it is revealed that everything strives toward unity; the forces that seem divisive are actually complementary, and can even cross-fertilize each other. Together they all long for God, their life Source. The wicked clinging to evil, who seem successful when viewed with mundane eyes, in fact are only there to inspire the righteous, and when they complete their job they disappear from the world. This is the praise sung by the seventh day:

A psalm. A song; for the day of Shabbat:

It is good to praise the Lord, to sing hymns to Your name, O Most High; to proclaim Your kindness at daybreak, and Your faithfulness each night.

With a ten-stringed harp and with a psaltery, with voice and lyre together.

For you have gladdened me by Your deeds, O Lord; I shout for joy at Your handiwork.

How great are your works, O Lord, how very subtle Your designs! A brutish man cannot know, and a fool cannot understand this: though the wicked sprout like grass, though all evildoers blossom, it is only that they may be destroyed forever.

But you are exalted, O Lord, for all time.

Surely, Your enemies, O Lord, surely, Your enemies perish, and all evildoers are scattered.

You raise my horn high like that of a wild ox; I am soaked in freshening oil. I shall see the defeat of my watchful foes. Hear of the downfall of the wicked who beset me.

The righteous bloom like a date-palm; they thrive like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are full of sap and freshness, proclaiming that the Lord is upright, my Rock, in whom there is no wrong. (Tehilim 92)

True peace thus has two components. The first is that peace gives every force and aspiration its unique and appropriate place, thus enabling each of them to achieve a refinement that shows that none of them are evil or at odds with the others. The second is that even pure evil has a purpose: to inspire the forces of good. Once good has been awakened, evil concludes its mission and disappears. There is no need to feel pain about the existence of evil, for it too has a destiny to fulfill within God’s plan.

Zohar states:

The world continues to exist only on account of peace. When God created the world, it could not exist until He infused it with peace. What is this peace? It is Shabbat, which brings peace between the celestial and terrestrial realms. Only then could the world exist. (III 176:2)

Zohar further states that one must be very careful not to infringe on the sanctity of Shabbat through arguments. One who is sad must try to overcome this mood on Shabbat. If one is at odds with his wife or someone else, Shabbat is the time for reconciliation (Tikkunei Zohar 57:1).

The lighting of the Shabbat candles symbolizes this peacefulness. When one’s home is dark, even if it is organized, he stumbles around in the dark to find his things. He bumps into things and trips over them, until he is left feeling that all his furniture and possessions have ganged up against him. But when he lights a candle, he sees that everything is in its place, ready to help him. This alludes to our position in the world. As long as we are distant from God and divine ideals, we are stumbling around in the dark, and the whole world seems at odds and divided, with the wicked dominating. But once we merit the light of Shabbat, which reveals perfect faith, we see how everyone’s different abilities complement each other, and evil goes up in smoke (see below 4:1).

Zohar states that with the revelation of perfect faith in the one and only God, which Shabbat expresses, joy is multiplied in all the worlds, and there is peace in the upper and nether realms. Every Jew is granted a neshama yeteira and supreme enjoyment. Even the wicked who are condemned to Hell get a break from punishment on Shabbat, if they honored Shabbat while they were alive (See Zohar I 48:1; II 88:2, 151:1, 205:1; III 94:2, 176:2, 273:1).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman