Embrace Shabbos Chapter 16: Increasing the “Weight” of Shabbos

Rabbi David Sutton June 20, 2024

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The Rambam, in the third chapter of Hilchos Teshuvah, writes that our mitzvos are always being weighed against our sins, and we must always ensure that the weight of our mitzvos exceeds that of our misdeeds. However, the Rambam adds, not all mitzvos have the same weight; some are “heavier” than others.

Various factors determine the relative “weight” of a mitzvah. First, some mitzvos are inherently “heavier” than others. For example, the Gemara comments that the mitzvah of Shabbos observance is equivalent to all other mitzvos combined. Due to its unique importance, Shabbos observance is especially valuable, and worth the same as the total value of all other mitzvos. Additionally, the degree to which one needs to struggle and exert effort to perform a mitzvah adds to its value and its “weight” on the scale. The greater the challenge that one needed to overcome in order to perform the mitzvah, the greater are its value and its rewards.

But there is also another factor, one which Rabbi Ades explained by way of a story.

A man once came to his Rebbe asking for help. He needed to marry off his daughter, but he did not have money. The Rebbe gave him a $100 bill and told him to go to the marketplace.

“Seize the first investment that you chance upon,” the Rebbe instructed, “and you will make the money that you need.”

The man had no business or entrepreneurial experience, but he faithfully followed his Rebbe’s instructions. He took the $100 bill and went to the market. He looked around, wondering when and how he would find something to invest in, when a certain wealthy and arrogant person whom he knew came along and asked, “What are you doing here? You don’t know anything about business!”

The man told him about the Rebbe’s instructions, and he showed him the $100 bill.

“Okay,” the other fellow said. “I have something to sell you. I am willing to sell you my share in the Next World for your $100.”

The man recalled what his Rebbe said — he should seize the first investment opportunity that comes his way, and this will bring him the money he needs. He obviously did not understand how buying another person’s share in the World to Come could bring him money for his daughter’s wedding, but he trusted his Rebbe’s instructions, and so he made the purchase.

He returned home, and his wife asked him what he purchased with the $100. When he told her that he bought another person’s share in the Next World, she was dismayed. “He’s never going to succeed,” she thought to herself. “How on earth does he expect to make any money by buying somebody’s portion in the Next World? What a fool!”

Meanwhile, the seller returned home and told his wife that he made an easy $100, by “selling” his share in the Next World.

“What?!” the wife bellowed. “I refuse to be married to a man who does not have a share in the World to Come. You go buy it back right now!”

And so the man had no choice but to track down the buyer and offer to buy back his share in the afterlife. But the man refused, as his Rebbe had told him to buy the first item that came his way. The seller told him to go speak to his Rebbe and ask for a solution.

The man returned to his Rebbe and told him what happened. The Rebbe asked him how much money he needed for his daughter to get married, and he said $20,000.

“If so,” the Rebbe said, “then tell the man you are demanding $20,000 in exchange for returning his share in the Next World.”

The seller was alarmed when he heard the demand, but he had no choice, so he paid the $20,000. The Rebbe’s words were fulfilled — the first investment the man came across ended up bringing him the money he needed.

When the seller returned home after buying back his share in the Next World, he told his wife that he needed to pay $20,000 for it. She was enraged. He explained that this is what the other man’s Rebbe said, and so he had no choice. The wife furiously ran to the Rebbe to ask for an explanation. How, she asked, could it be that her husband would have to pay $20,000 to buy back something he had sold two days earlier for just $100?

The Rebbe explained, “When he first sold his share in the Next World, he did not value it, and so it was worth very little. But then he realized just how precious the afterlife is, and so its price rose exponentially.”

Rabbi Ades said that the same is true of our mitzvos. The more we value mitzvos, the more they are worth. If we treat them with respect and eagerly rush to perform them, demonstrating just how important we think they are, then they are extremely valuable and carry a great deal of “weight” on the Heavenly Scale.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to accept Shabbos early. Beyond the value of the extra 10 minutes, we demonstrate how valuable Shabbos is in our eyes, thereby increasing its “weight” manifold.

This concept can be found in numerous different sources. The Gemara (Shabbos 33b) relates that after Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son left the cave where they spent twelve years learning Torah, they saw people working the land, and could not believe that people would engage in worldly activities instead of Torah. As a result, they caused harm and destruction wherever they looked. Hashem told them to return to the cave, and one year later, they emerged and saw a man running right before Shabbos carrying two hadasim in honor of Shabbos. Rabbi Shimon turned to his son and said, “Look how beloved the mitzvos are to the Jews!” The man’s enthusiasm for Shabbos demonstrated his love and respect for the mitzvah, and this made his mitzvah especially powerful.

The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 16b) teaches that we blow an additional set of shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah in order to “confuse” the Satan. Rashi explains that by sounding a second series of blasts, we show that we are not merely getting the job done, but going beyond the strict call of duty to ensure to perform the mitzvah the best way and on the highest standard. And when we do this, Rashi writes, the Satan’s claims against us are stopped. Rav Yerucham Levovitz suggested an analogy to a prosecuting attorney who sees during the court proceedings that the judge is smiling affectionately at the defendant. Once the prosecutor sees this, he can no longer make his case with any sort of confidence, realizing that the judge looks so favorably upon the defendant. Similarly, when we show how precious the mitzvos are in our eyes, Hashem looks upon us with an affectionate smile, as it were, and thus the Satan is silenced. This is true not only on Rosh Hashanah.

By accepting Shabbos early, we show our great love for the mitzvah, that we can’t wait for Shabbos to begin and we can’t get enough of it. The great mitzvah of Shabbos is exceedingly valuable in its own right, but by rushing to welcome Shabbos early, we make it even more valuable and give it extra weight on the Heavenly Scale.

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