The Power of Shabbat

Thursday, 24 October, 2013 - 4:15 pm

Kabbala teaches that our purpose in this world is called the “Avodah of Birurim” – the work of refinement. This stems from the Kabbalistic notion of “the Shattering of the Vessels” where fragments or sparks of spiritual energy “fell” into the physical world and were absorbed into everything around this universe. When we utilize an object in the service of G-d, we refine it and extract or elevate those sparks to holiness. For example, when a person eats Kosher food so that they can have energy to pray, study, do Mitzvot or serve G-d in any way, the sparks that were dormant in the food are refined and elevated to holiness. Since the food also contains elements that conceal the sparks of holiness, care must be given not become enslaved to those “waste” elements by focusing solely on the physical benefits of the food. This is reflected in the physical results of eating as well. There are certain good elements of the food that are refined in the digestive system and used to give the body energy and strengthen the systems of the body. The rest becomes waste that needs to be expelled.  

However there is a time when the “Avodah of Birurim” with food is suspended. That is on the day of Shabbat. Kabbala reveals that on Shabbat an other-worldly spiritual energy is dominant – a G-dliness that flows through the four letters of the Tetragrammaton – the ineffable name of G-d. As such the concealment that is present throughout the week is peeled away on Shabbat, allowing for a greater revelation of the truth of G-dliness. So eating on Shabbat takes on a whole different nature. The eating itself is a G-dly activity (provided a person eats like a mensch and doesn’t see this as a license to be a glutton). This is why we have special traditions and customs associated with the Shabbat meal. Each holy custom and tradition is another element of the G-dly experience that is Shabbat. This is also reflected in Halacha. On Shabbat extracting waste from food – Borer – is prohibited. In a conceptual sense the “Avodah of Birurim” would be against the spirit of Shabbat - where extraction of waste from food is forbidden.

As we prepare to celebrate Shabbat let us remember how empowering Shabbat is and make the most of it.

Mazel Tov to my sister Mushka upon her upcoming marriage to Peretz Kazen next week. Mazel Tov to the entire family. We look forward to a wonderful week of celebration in New Orleans.

Our 2013 Raffle kicked off this week, with the drawing for $10,000 and other prizes being held on December 10. To view the prizes and to purchase tickets go to

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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