Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, in his work Be’emunaso Yichyeh (p. 53), describes how on Shabbos we live in an entirely different “zone,” a different plane of existence, which he calls olamah shel Shabbos — “the world of Shabbos.” If we conduct ourselves properly on Shabbos, then we are elevated onto a qualitatively different plane, a plane of emunah, where it is abundantly clear that the world and our lives are controlled only by Hashem.
Rabbi Wolbe proceeds to present two different approaches to the Shabbos prohibitions, both of which can help put us into the proper mindset for appreciating and gaining from this special olamah shel Shabbos. The first is that we are limited in our activity on Shabbos much as a person is limited when he visits someone else’s home. When we visit someone’s home, we do not act as we wish or help ourselves to whatever we want.
Rabbi Wolbe describes how Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, the famed Mashgiach of the Mir Yeshivah, placed special emphasis on training his students to respect other people’s property. Once, Rabbi Wolbe was at Rav Yerucham’s home, and he noticed a broken clock on the table. Curious, he picked it up to look at it, and Rav Yerucham reprimanded him, as one should not be touching other people’s possessions — even a broken clock.
On Shabbos, we live with a keen awareness that we do not own this world; we are just guests in Hashem’s world. As such, we are much more limited in engaging and making use of the world, just as we are more limited in other people’s homes than we are in our own homes.
Secondly, Rabbi Wolbe cites the Baal HaTanya as explaining that whenever we perform any sort of creative activity, we are — to one extent or another — focusing our minds on that activity. When we write, for example, we are focused on the physical entities involved — the pen, the ink, the paper, the words, and so on. On Shabbos, we must ensure not to limit our focus on mundane, physical matters. As Rabbi Wolbe writes:
On Shabbos, it is prohibited to confine oneself by the limitations of mundane matters; rather, one must free himself from all this constriction and rise to a higher realm.
Shabbos is a day when we are able to reach higher levels of emunah. It is a matanah tovah — a wondrous gift, ushering us into a much higher plane of existence, at which we can achieve much more. But in order to reach this realm, we must free ourselves from the “constriction” of engagement in mundane activity.
These two perspectives should help us focus our minds on Shabbos to understand what is truly happening on this day. Every time we refrain from turning on a light, or when we need to prepare our tea in a special way to avoid transgressing the prohibition of bishul, cooking, we should remind ourselves that we are now living in a different world, in a world of emunah, in a world where we are able to see and feel with special clarity how Hashem is in full control. The Shabbos restrictions are expressions of this concept of olamah shel Shabbos, that on Shabbos we live on a different plane. By recognizing this fundamentally different mode of existence, we can reap its benefits, and gain inspiration and kedushah which will, hopefully, accompany us even after Shabbos, throughout the workweek.
Reproduced from Living Shabbos by Rabbi David Sutton
ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications Ltd. Reprinted with permission.