Embrace Shabbos Chapter 1: The Gift Of Shabbos

Rabbi David Sutton February 23, 2024

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Hagahos Asheri (Bava Metzia, Chapter 2) tells of a man who purchased a bucket of lead in order to seal his roof. He then decided not to seal his roof, and so he sold the bucket to someone else. When the buyer began removing the contents, he noticed that the bucket was actually filled with silver, and had just a thin layer of lead on top to conceal the treasure. It appears that the bucket’s original owner had used it to hide his silver. The first man claimed that the bucket was his property, as the sale was made in error. Since he was unaware of what was actually contained in the bucket, the sale was void, and the bucket still belonged to him. The buyer, however, countered that once the transaction was made, it was final, and the seller could not renege upon becoming aware of what the bucket contained.

The case came before Rabbi Eliezer of Metz, who ruled in favor of the buyer, saying that he could keep the bucket. The seller, the rabbi explained, never truly owned the bucket. When he first purchased it, he thought he was receiving lead, when in truth he was receiving silver. A person who does not know the value of what he acquires does not legally acquire it. As such, he never truly owned the bucket, and so the person who currently has possession of the bucket is legally entitled to keep it.

Later rabbis applied this concept to spirituality. Unless we recognize the true value of what we have, we do not really have it.

Shabbos is infused with immense spiritual power, but we cannot “own” this power unless we acknowledge its value. It behooves us, then, to remind ourselves of just how special, significant and sacred this day is, and once we have this appreciation, we will reap the incalculable benefits that Shabbos has to offer.

The Midrash (Pesikta Rabbasi 14) tells of a Jew who came upon hard times and was forced to sell his cow. The animal was purchased by a non-Jewish man, who immediately began using the cow to plow his fields, and he was very pleased. However, when Shabbos came, the cow refused to work. Even after the new owner beat it multiple times, the cow would not move. The non-Jew rushed back to the previous owner to demand that the sale be annulled. The Jew approached the cow and whispered something in its ear. It immediately began plowing.

The new owner demanded that the Jew explain to him what he told the cow.

The Jew said, “I explained that although it was not allowed to work on Shabbos while I owned it, now it is owned by someone who is not Jewish, and so it is allowed to plow on Shabbos.”

The non-Jew thought to himself, “If this animal was influenced by its Jewish owner and realized it couldn’t work on Shabbos, then certainly I, who was created in the Divine Image, and who is capable of thinking and understanding, is capable of recognizing my Creator and connecting to Him.” He converted to Judaism, studied Torah, and became one of the Sages of Israel. He was called Rabbi Yochanan ben Torsa, as the word “Torsa” means “cow.”


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Reprinted from Embrace Shabbos by Rabbi David Sutton with permission from Artscroll Mesorah.