Embrace Shabbos Chapter 3: The Advertising Division Of G-d’s Business

Rabbi David Sutton March 14, 2024

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The Torah (Shemos 31:17) describes Shabbos as an os, a “sign” that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh: “It [Shabbos] is forever a sign between Me and Bnei Yisrael that G-d made heaven and earth in six days, and stopped and rested on the seventh day.”

The Chafetz Chaim famously explained the concept of Shabbos being a “sign” by way of an analogy to a shop. If the shop’s front door is locked, but the sign bearing the store’s name is still prominently displayed on the building, everyone knows that the store is still in business. Even if the owner or manager went on vacation for two weeks or a month, or if the facility is being renovated and is temporarily closed, as long as the sign is displayed, people know that the business has not closed down, and that it will, sooner or later, resume its operations. Similarly, the Chafetz Chaim explained, Shabbos is the “sign” announcing that the “business” of Judaism is still open. Even if occasionally we “close,” and we fail to act as we should, as long as we observe Shabbos, we are still “open for business,” we are still devoted to Torah despite the temporary lapse.

This analogy has profound implications. Businesses pay for large, elaborate signs in order to catch people’s attention and advertise themselves. If, as the Chafetz Chaim teaches, Shabbos is the “sign” of our “business,” then this must mean that Shabbos is the way we “advertise” Hashem. This is how we publicize the basic fundamentals of Jewish faith: that Hashem created and governs the world. Each week, when Shabbos begins, we work in the advertising division of G-d’s business, spreading the word that He is our Creator and King.

Advertising is a multibillion-dollar industry. Google earns billions providing a search engine and countless other free features solely by having companies advertise their products and services on its pages. Waze, the internationally renowned navigation app, is profitable because businesses pay it to show their advertisements to people driving in their area. Newspapers make money not from subscriptions, but from advertisers. Businesses pay to have their ads placed in elevators and on the roofs of taxicabs. People pay huge sums of money for advertising because, quite simply, it works. Publicizing one’s product or service is an effective way of attracting customers. It is logical, then, that G-d promises us such great rewards for observing Shabbos — because through our observance we “advertise” His “business.”

There are a number of things we can learn and understand about Shabbos based on this perspective. First, one of the rules of advertising is that the clearer and more direct the message is, the greater an impact it will have. While some companies may occasionally run a temporary vague advertising campaign to build anticipation (“It’s coming soon…”), as a general rule, companies want to send a clear, explicit message of what they are offering consumers. This is why we begin Shabbos with the recitation of Kiddush, in which we state very clearly and succinctly what it is we are promoting: that G-d is the Creator of the world. Right from the start, we send a clear and direct message.

Other insights into the “advertising” value of Shabbos can be gleaned from a conversation I once had with a Shabbos many years ago. He was a baal teshuvah who worked in advertising. I asked him why Coca Cola continues to shell out money for advertising, when everyone knows about and is very familiar with the company. He explained that Coca Cola continues to advertise for three reasons. First, people’s minds are feeble, and are prone to forgetting. If Coca Cola did not continue to advertise, then no matter how famous it is now, it would gradually fade from people’s consciousness. Second, there is stiff competition. Pepsi is continuing to advertise, and so Coca Cola needs to continue, as well, in order to keep up and not lose ground in the perennial battle for consumers. Finally, the market is always shifting. Today’s young children are tomorrow’s consumers, and so, large, famous companies must continue to advertise to attract new potential consumers.

It occurred to me that all three factors are directly and profoundly relevant to the “advertising” role of Shabbos. First, we are forgetful, and we therefore need regular reminders about Hashem. We wear tzitzis all day as a reminder, and we likewise observe Shabbos each week to ensure that G-d’s control and authority over the world remains at the forefront of our consciousness. Second, there is, unfortunately, a great deal of “competition.” Society bombards us with the very opposite message, the message of unbridled indulgence and permissiveness as the means of enjoying a happy life. We need to counteract this dangerous message with the timeless, true message about Hashem and the kind of life He wants us to live. Third, even if we are keenly aware of Hashem, we need to convey this message to our children, as the “market” is constantly shifting and the message therefore needs to be regularly repeated and reinforced.

Two stories are told about Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, the renowned Rosh Yeshivah of Kamenitz, that underscore the power of the message that is sent through Shabbos observance. Rav Baruch Ber once visited the United States to raise money for his yeshivah. The trip took place in the 1930s, at a time when Jewish immigrants faced enormous pressure to work on Shabbos, and many of those who heroically refused to compromise Shabbos observance suffered poverty and hardship. At one point during his visit, Rav Baruch Ber passed a Jewish-owned store on Shabbos and noticed that the door was locked. He went over to the lock and kissed it. He exclaimed, “O holy lock! You proclaim that Hashem is our G-d and we are His servants!”

On another occasion, when a Jewish immigrant told the Rabbi that he had decided to close his store on Shabbos, Rav Baruch Ber told him, “Go put your ear to the lock. You will hear it shouting, ‘Hashem Hu HaElokim — Hashem is G-d!’” Those Jews who passed this test and made enormous financial sacrifices for the sake of Shabbos observance made a resounding proclamation that nothing in the world is greater than Hashem. This was the most effective advertisement possible.

This is the opportunity we are given each and every week — to serve as G-d’s personal advertising agents. There are an unlimited number of ideas that marketing experts can devise to broadcast their message. We don’t necessarily need to resort to bumper stickers or billboards, but we can think of ways to enhance our Shabbos observance in order to “advertise” Hashem more effectively. But in truth, the mere observance of Shabbos itself sends a very strong message. This can be achieved simply by the sight of a family walking to or from the synagogue on Shabbos on a hot summer day dressed in suits and ties. They are not going to a wedding or banquet, but simply celebrating G-d’s special day, and this already powerfully conveys the message of G-d’s mastery over the world. Our Shabbos clothes loudly proclaim, “Hashem Hu HaElokim.”

As mentioned, advertising is a very lucrative industry. We are promised great rewards for accepting this vital role and “advertising” Hashem through our Shabbos observance. And the clearer and more beautiful the “signs” that we create through the enhancement of Shabbos, the more effective our “advertisement” will be, and the more we will be rewarded.


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

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