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This week’s question:
We always hear that Shabbat is a day of rest. But you, dear Rabbi, hike two miles to Shul, sweating away in this heat! Isn’t it more restful to drive?!
(Submitted by: M.H.)
Answer: Actually, it’s a bit inaccurate to describe the acts prohibited on Shabbat as “work”. Shabbat is not simply a rest from working; presumably this concept existed before Shabbat, as the portion of Creation that typically rests surely did so before Shabbat as well. Rather, Shabbat is a more intense connection with the energy of the Neshama, the soul, and the acts prohibited are those that would generate static interference with this connection.
On a deeper level, it is said that the main root of one’s Neshama remains in Heaven, and only a small section filters down onto our planet. Man is a combination of body and soul, and the body forms a barrier between the soul on Earth and the soul residing in the Heavens. For those who have conquered the body’s demanding temptations, such as Moses, this barrier is gone, and there is a free flow between the upper Neshama and the lower Neshama. Shabbat’s restriction on the body’s acts of interference with the Neshama similarly diminishes the strength of the barrier, allowing us to connect with ourselves in a more powerful way, by connecting with the main root of our very own Neshama in Heaven.
This is perhaps the meaning of the mystical teaching that on Shabbat we experience “Neshama Yeteira”, an “extra” Neshama. According to the above explanation, it is actually a deeper part of our own Neshama that we unite with on Shabbat.