Our Sages draw a comparison between our preparations for Shabbos during the week and our preparations for the Next World during our lifetime. They comment, “One who makes the effort on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos” (Avodah Zarah 3a), and whoever prepares in this world will enjoy the delights of the Next World.
The Toldot Yaakov Yosef (Parashat Behar) develops this theme by noting that every series of six prepares for the seventh: during the six workdays we prepare for Shabbos, during
the six years we prepare for the year, and during the years of our lives — “the days of our years…are seventy” Tehillim 90:10) — we prepare for the Next World. Likewise, the Sefas Emes (Parashas Vayishlach and Va’eira) comments that just as all our physical and spiritual efforts during the workweek prepare us for the menucha, rest of Shabbos, all our work and effort during our lifetime prepare us for the menucha of the Next World.
The Sefas Emes adds that as great as Shabbos is, its greatness depends upon the effort made during the week to prepare for it. In truth, as the Sefas Emes proceeds to discuss, the entire world operates according to this system — we put in work and effort, and reap the rewards later. Exile prepares us for redemption; this world prepares us for the Next World.
When we prepare for Shabbos, we remind ourselves of this basic axiom that we sow today so we can reap tomorrow. And this is true not only of actual work, but also of the challenges and difficulties that we endure during our lifetime — they are all preparation for the Ultimate Redemption. For this reason, the Sefas Emes explains, Moshe was called to task for his remarks to Hashem at the end of Parashas Shemos, in which he asked why Hashem increased the difficult conditions Bnei Yisrael were enduring in Egypt. Moshe was to have understood that, in the Sefas Emes’s words, “Exile and the reality of these evils in Egypt were all for good, a preparation for bringing about the ultimate perfection.” The challenges and difficulties we confront prepare us for the great “perfection” that will come in the end.
And this is the deeper message of our Shabbos preparations. They are not just about meeting our practical needs, purchasing produce from the fruit store and meat from the butcher so we have what to eat on Shabbos. Rather, they relate to our overall mindset and attitude toward life, the understanding that we prepare now for the future.
The Kabbalists tell us that the seven great tzaddikim — Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and David — correspond to the seven days of the week. According to this system, Yosef corresponds to Friday, the day of Shabbos preparation.
Yosef embodied this quality of preparing, of looking ahead to the future. He viewed the years of surplus as a time to prepare for the years of famine. This is why he advised Pharaoh to appoint a “wise” person, in the sense of eizehu chacham, haro’eh es hanolad — a “wise” person is the one who can look ahead and prepare for the future (Tamid 32a).
The process of preparing for Shabbos reminds us that we must live with this ongoing awareness, that this world is followed by the Next World. Just as the clock ticks on Friday and tells us we need to prepare for Shabbos, similarly, we must always be in “preparation mode,” getting ready for the Next World.
Finally, the Shabbos preparations symbolize the fact that Hashem is similarly preparing for the Next World. He is preparing by orchestrating all the events in the world and in our
lives to lead toward the ultimate “Shabbos.” Shabbos preparation must be in our thoughts throughout the week because it
encourages us by reminding us that Hashem, too, is constantly preparing.
The kitchen in a Jewish home might be in complete disarray one hour before Shabbos, and one who sees it might naturally wonder whether the household will in fact be ready in time for Shabbos, but an hour later, everything is set and a beautiful Shabbos is experienced. Similarly, in this world things are in disarray. Things are not in order.
But like the kitchen on Friday afternoon, the preparations are underway and moving along right on schedule. And once the ultimate period of “Shabbos” arrives, we will be sitting at a beautiful “table” and enjoying the unparalleled serenity and delights that Hashem has been preparing for us all along.
Reproduced from Living Shabbos by Rabbi David Sutton
ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications Ltd. Reprinted with permission.