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The Shabbat is a day of rest. Why are there so many restrictions on what we can do on this day? If we are meant to rest, wouldn`t it be better to just let us do whatever we like?

Once a week, the Jew enters a "harmony chamber." Here he is at peace with himself. Six days a week, the stress of earning a living gnaws away at our peace of mind. It's a strain on our emotional and physical good health.  When the seventh day comes, the Jew becomes a king.  He stands tall and is finally free. Today, there is no need to give in to external pressures, social, economic, or physical. On Shabbat, man is free to get to know his inner self. 

The psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, speaks highly of the Jewish Sabbath. He finds in it the perfect balm for the emotional trials and tribulations which are so prevalent in our times. He describes the Shabbat as the symbol of harmony, an island of tranquility in a sea of troubled, stormy waters.

The repose of the Shabbat is that of the free man. On this day, we refrain from any involvement in the workaday world. We stand to one side, as observers, and gain an insight and perspective which are the reward of those who know how to take a few steps back and away from the hectic race-pace of the Western world. According to Fromm, the Shabbat provides the Orthodox Jew with a weekly dose of the perspective that is essential to one's health and peace of mind.

Some do not observe the laws of Shabbat; they regard it as a day for relaxation, pursuing one's hobbies, or taking long trips. Others consider it as a day when they are free to relax and "do nothing." Such people may achieve a physical rest, but they will never attain the emotional renewal and peace of mind that a real Shabbat bestows on the Orthodox Jew.For those who keep the Shabbat fully, the day is a unique experience, twenty-five hours on another planet, the Kingdom of Shabbat. So many concerns are banished, out of sight, and out of mind! There are no business competitors; there is no overdraft, and no budget to be balanced.

The Shabbat unites the members of the family around a festive table, without the incessant ring of the telephone or doorbell. There are no pressures from without to distract parents from their children's concerns. There is no hectic timetable dictated by external factors.Each family adapts its Shabbat schedule to its own needs. Everyone is relaxed and receptive to the other members of the family, and perhaps to a guest or two. Their outlook on life is entirely different – and better. The Shabbat transforms them into happier, more relaxed individuals. They become ennobled personalities whose outlook on life is broader and more perceptive.

All this takes place within the makeup of the individual. On a national plane, the effects of the Shabbat are no less evident. There is no "natural" explanation for the survival of the Jewish People over thousands of years of exile. Historians over the ages have been at a loss to explain the fact that the Jews have not disappeared from the face of the earth, as did so many other ancient peoples, many of them far more powerful and politically secure.

Statistically speaking, the people of Israel should be found today only in history books. Many point to the Jewish Sabbath as a reason for the miraculous survival of this tiny, stubborn nation which refused – and still refuses – to fade into oblivion. All week long, the Jew was bent under the burden of the nations that ruled over him, often with a heavy hand, if not with an iron fist or well-sharpened sword. Persecutions, poverty, massacres – these were their daily fare. On Friday afternoon, the Jew bathed, donned his best garments, and stood tall and proud as he made his way to the synagogue to welcome the Sabbath Queen. At home, his wife, dressed in her finest, kindled the Shabbat lights and offered up a fervent prayer for herself, her family, and her nation.For twenty-five hours, the Jew was free; Shabbat transformed him to an aristocrat and a prince. Its sanctity imbued him with the wherewithal to survive another week of exile without permanent damage to his soul.

Today's Jew who observes the Shabbat enjoys an added dimension to his life, not only on the seventh day. The influence of the Shabbat is felt every day of the week. It breaks the continuum of work days into smaller, separate units that we can cope with more easily. The Jew never need go more than six days without receiving a boost of spiritual energy. As hectic as his work may be, he avoids depleting his reservoir of emotional energy; he remains more relaxed on weekdays because he recharges his spiritual batteries at regular intervals, well before they are completely drained. 

Those fortunate enough who have had the opportunity to experience the sanctity of Shabbat in an Orthodox Jewish home have no need to ask the meaning of oneg Shabbat, the delight of observing the Seventh Day. The Jew's inner being, gratefully partakes of the pleasures of the day, drawing closer to His Maker and His commandments. The restfulness and harmony of the Shabbat need no explanation. The tranquility of the Orthodox Shabbat has nothing in common with the notion of "a day off" which is devoted to sunning on the beach or lounging in an easy chair, doing nothing. It is true that we must be physically rested in order to achieve emotional and spiritual repose, but this is only the beginning, not the end purpose which the Shabbat is intended to achieve.

Anyone whose Shabbat consists of merely giving his body a day of physical pleasure is like someone who is just offshore, in shallow waters. He is nearly ashore, and with a few short steps, he can leave behind the sea of the mundane, material world, and climb ashore. If he does so, he will find himself happily arrived on an island of spiritual peace and sanctity immeasurably more delightful than all he has left behind. The hours he spends there will infuse his entire week with a new light and joy, and induce him to count the days until he can again come ashore and partake of the joys of the Island of Peace and Harmony, the Holy Shabbat.

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