Embrace Shabbos Chapter 6: Shabbos Observance Has The Power To Heal

Rabbi David Sutton April 4, 2024

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The Gemara (Shabbos 12b) tells us: When one visits a sick person on Shabbos he should say, “Shabbos he mi’lizok u’refuah kerovah lavo — Shabbos prevents us from crying out and the healing will come fast.” The commentaries explain this to mean that although on weekdays we need to pray to alleviate pain and suffering, on Shabbos the merit of Shabbos will bring relief without the need to pray. The sefer Ahavas Shalom (Ki Sisa) explains that mentioning the word “Shabbos” alone brings healing. That is why the visitor states “Shabbos he — It is Shabbos.” The Sidduro Shel Shabbos (eighth Drush) adds that the word “Shabbos” is an acronym for “Shabbos bo tisrafeh, v’Shabbos bo toshia — Through Shabbos you will be healed, through Shabbos you will be saved.”

A story is told (in HaShabbos B’Mechitzas HaChafetz Chaim, p. 57) of a man who suffered from a stomach ailment that led his doctors to warn him to avoid certain foods, including hamin (cholent), the conventional Shabbos food that cooks on the fire through Friday night and is then eaten for Shabbos lunch. The reason for eating such foods on Shabbos is in order to publicly renounce the heretical view of the Karaites, who erroneously maintained that the Torah forbids leaving a fire burning on Shabbos. This man wanted to know whether he should forgo this custom, considering the doctor’s warnings that this food would cause him pain and discomfort. He brought his question to the Chafetz Chaim.

The Chafetz Chaim answered that if one eats l’kavod Shabbos, with the intention of giving honor to Shabbos, then “Shabbos he mi’lizok u’refuah kerovah lavo.” This expression means that Shabbos is not a time for praying on behalf of sick patients (unless somebody is seriously ill), and the Chafetz Chaim was telling this patient that if he is genuinely committed to the honor of Shabbos, then Shabbos will not be a cause of cries of pain. To the contrary, u’refuah kerovah lavo — the merit of honoring Shabbos will bring good health and will cure him of his ailments.

“Are you sure?” the man asked. “Can I be certain that I won’t get sick from eating this food?”

“If you are very concerned,” the Chafetz Chaim said, “then listen to your doctors and don’t eat it.”

Later rabbis explained the rabbi’s response to mean that if one has full, unquestioning faith in our Sages’ guarantees, then he will earn protection. But if a person entertains doubts and is skeptical, then he will not earn full protection. (A similar point is made about the privilege of serving as sandak at a bris, which is said to be a segulah that brings wealth. Of course, not everyone who serves as sandak becomes wealthy, and the explanation given is that most people do not fully trust the power of this merit, and so they do not earn its special benefits.)

Therefore, it behooves us to regularly reinforce our belief in the special powers and benefits of Shabbos observance, as this belief will ensure that we reap those benefits.

 In the book Living Shabbos, we told another story of the Chafetz Chaim, who once advised Rav Avraham Kalmanovitz that he could “sell” his merit of Shabbos observance to a seriously ill patient, so he would be healed. For the Chafetz Chaim, the merit of Shabbos was something real and tangible, no less than a material object. Just as one has property, such as a home, which he can sell, the merit of Shabbos observance is likewise an asset of immense value.

It is told (in Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s Illuminations of the Maggid, p. 285) that the family of Rav Shaya’le Kerestirer (1851– 1925) was once preparing for Shabbos on Friday, expecting a large group of guests, and they suddenly realized that they did not have enough money for the food they needed. Just then, a man from a wealthy family knocked on the door and requested a blessing from the rabbi on behalf of his father, who had taken seriously ill. The rabbi told the young man that if his father would pay for all the rabbi’s needs for this Shabbos, he would be healed. The man went home to tell his father what the rabbi said, and the father agreed. The son brought the rabbi the money to cover all his Shabbos costs, and sure enough, the next week, the father was cured.

Rav Shaya’le was later asked to identify the source of this concept, that one earns good health by supporting another person’s Shabbos. He replied by pointing to the compensation requirements that the Torah establishes in a case where one caused his fellow physical harm. These requirements include “sheves” — compensating for the income the victim lost as a result of his injury — as well as covering his medical costs (in addition to other payments). The Torah (Shemos 21:19) commands, “rak shivto yitein v’rapo yerapei — only he must pay his lost time, and for his cure.” The word “shivto” contains the letters of the word “Shabbat.” This phrase may be understood to mean, “Even if one only gives money for a poor person’s Shabbos, then he will merit healing.” This is the source that giving financial assistance to allow someone to properly honor Shabbos brings merit that is capable of curing one’s illness.

This story demonstrates that when we enable other people to perform a mitzvah, we share the merit of that mitzvah. For example, by supporting a yeshivah one earns a share in the merit of the Torah studied in the yeshivah. By supporting chesed projects, one earns the merit of the acts of kindness that he helped to facilitate. Likewise, by helping people to properly observe Shabbos, one earns the immense benefits of their Shabbos observance.

A striking example of this concept appears in the Kaf HaChaim (223), which rules, citing the Chida, that when a scholar publishes a new Torah book, this occasion warrants the recitation of the berachah of Shehecheyanu. The Kaf HaChaim adds that this applies even to the sponsor of a Torah book. Since he facilitated the book’s publication, he is an equal partner in the merits of Torah being spread, and so he, too, may recite Shehecheyanu.

Observing Shabbos, and helping others to properly observe Shabbos, is exceedingly valuable and offers great benefits. Let us appreciate these benefits and look for opportunities to both enhance our own Shabbos observance and help other people to enhance their Shabbos observance, so we can earn all the special blessings that Shabbos — the mekor haberachah (source of blessing) — has to offer.


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