Shabbat Encroachment

Friday, 30 April, 2021 - 12:22 pm

The term encroachment generally conveys a negative connotation. We understand it to be something like the creep of a negative force. However, technically it can be applied in a neutral sense as well, as in gradually advancing beyond the usual limits of a particular setting. I would like to offer three applications of Shabbat encroachment.

Our sages teach us that we should allow Shabbat to encroach upon the weekday by starting a little early and ending a little late. At the very minimum we go from just before sundown on Friday to nightfall on Saturday, with some adding even more time. Since Shabbat is a time of withdrawal from the mundane and increased holiness, encroaching upon the weekday results in an increase of holiness and G-dliness in our week and a decreasing of the mundane.

In a conceptual sense, Shabbat is more than just a day in time, it is also a mindset or paradigm. In fact, one could argue that the time and energy spent on prayer, study and service of G-d is the Shabbat in everyday life. So while generally we devote a little time in the morning and evening to prayer and study, Shabbat encroachment would be “stealing” from that time and adding in the activities of holiness. On a deeper level, Shabbat encroachment would be diverting not just time, but prioritization and focus. I might be going about my daily business, but my mind and heart are on my Divine service.

Finally we have Shabbat encroachment in the big picture of history. The Zohar says that there are six millennia and the seventh (Shabbat) is the era of Redemption. However since Shabbat is supposed to “steal” a little weekday time, the era of Redemption should kick in on the “Friday afternoon” of history. We are now in the year 5781. It is late on Friday afternoon. According to the law of the Torah, the Shabbat of Redemption should be kicking in any moment now.

Let’s make sure we are not caught unaware. Just like on Friday afternoon, we change clothes, prepare special foods, and transform our homes for Shabbat, we should now be laser focused on preparing our lives for the imminent Shabbat that is about to be ushered in through the coming of Moshiach.

Shabbat Shalom (in every sense)
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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