Once, at high noon on a Friday, the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, went for ritual immersion to the famous mikveh —the rock-lined tiny pool of flowing spring water— that is located next to the Safed cemetery. When he came out, he told his protégé Rabbi Chaim Vital that he was blind. After some time he spoke again and said he could now see. Rabbi Chaim asked him what had happened. He answered that he had been blinded by the souls of all of the righteous rising out of their graves as they moved towards heaven for Shabbat.

When he came out, he told his protégé...that he was blind.

We learn a few things from this story: First, the souls of the righteous do not stay in their graves on Shabbat. Second, the sanctification of the world on the eve of Shabbat does not begin only at candle lighting time or sunset, but rather at noon. Similarly, the kabbalistic tradition is that the souls do not return to their graves until midnight on Saturday night.

It is fine to say that kabbala hints to an aspect of Shabbat that lasts through Saturday night, but where do we find a source for this in the ‘revealed’ Torah? In a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Shabbat Beshalach 5752 (1992), he pointed out that it is written (Shabbat 119b, Shulchan Aruch, ch. 300) that it is appropriate for a person to set his table in a Shabbat-like way for a meal on Saturday night. The commentaries explain that we should send off the Shabbat in an honorable fashion, as we would escort a king as he departs our city. There is a question here. When we escort the king, he is together with us, but in this case, by the time we eat the Saturday evening meal, called ‘Melaveh Malkaqueen’s escort’, Shabbat is already long over and the queen is gone!

We find our answer in relation to the manna—the food from Heaven during the 40-year sojourn in the desert, which is discussed in the weekly reading Beshalach. (Ex. 16:14-24) A double portion of manna fell on Friday, leaving them enough food for a morning and evening meal on Friday, and for a morning and evening meal on Shabbat, the evening meal being Melaveh Malka. (See Chizkuni 16/23) From the fact that G‑d blessed the Shabbat with a double portion of manna falling on Friday, we see that the blessing lasted through Saturday night!

We conclude from this analysis that there is a practical difference between the blessing of Shabbat and the sanctity of Shabbat (see Friday night kiddush text). While the sanctity of Shabbat lasts only during Shabbat, and as soon as we make havdala, the sanctity ends; the blessing of Shabbat extends into Saturday night. From this we see that the Shabbat queen is still with us on Saturday night and (as we saw in the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch) that Melaveh Malka is the evening meal that the Jewish people ate in the desert from the double portion of manna that fell on Friday.

...Melaveh Malka is the evening meal that the Jewish people ate in the desert from the...manna that fell on Friday.

Besides taking the mitzvah of Melaveh Malka more seriously, what else can we learn from this concept? Shabbat is the day when all of our efforts are focused on G‑d. We let nothing invade our Shabbat to diminish this focus. When we extend Shabbat into our week, we demonstrate that just as we can control our lives for the day of Shabbat, we control our lives even during the mundane.

This is why the ‘luz bone’, from which the resurrection of the dead will begin, is nourished only from the food we eat at the Melaveh Malka meal; because the arrival of King Mashiach and the resurrection will be a combination of this world and the world to come, just as ‘Melaveh Malka’ incorporates the holy Shabbat and the mundane week. Through this act of increasing holiness, we will hasten the arrival of Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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