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Shabbat enables us to access the all-encompassing quality of delight

Shabbat: Gateway to Delight

Shabbat: Gateway to Delight

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Shabbat: Gateway to Delight
Shabbat enables us to access the all-encompassing quality of delight

The fine distinction between enjoying ourselves through the physical pleasures of Shabbat versus delighting in the spiritual joy we may attain this day calls for a redefinition of the terms "joy" and "delight".

As specific situations in man's life give rise to joy, the happiness that takes hold of him makes him momentarily forget everything that may be oppressing him. For instance, a person who discovers new levels of meaning in the Torah after hours of analytical study feels great joy stemming from the illumination of wisdom he has received. Although the other parts of his body are not experiencing his joy directly, they share in his joy despite the fact that their individual burden is not lighter. The vibrant pleasure known as 'delight' infuses each and every part of our body in equal measure…

In contrast with "joy" that is felt in the mind, "delight" [in Hebrew, "oneg"] is also expressed as a joy in which all the parts of the body share in it equally, as if one were rejoicing for many different reasons simultaneously. The vibrant pleasure known as 'delight' infuses each and every part of our body in equal measure, reaching beyond the body to our soul.

Reaching the delight of Shabbat allows man to devote all his being to the service of his Creator. This, in turn, serves to enhance the inner function of the additional soul, the sharpening of the mind of those who thirst for closeness to G‑d, allowing them to grasp the inner message of the Torah.

The additional soul also gives us an expanded consciousness to eat and drink with a joyful heart. We no longer have to fear the power of the animating soul to pull us down as it does throughout the week. The Ruach is now free to attach itself to our Neshama. This increased power of our intellectual soul, coupled with the awareness of the altered state within our reach, gives us an added measure of self-control to avoid the "down" of overeating.

Aware of the way in which one's spiritual consciousness is lowered while eating, Torah sages usually interrupt their meals at frequent intervals in order to break the strength of their desire. The time of these interruptions is usually spent discussing the Torah. The goal is to raise the consciousness so that the taste of the food is not an end in itself. The interruptions make it easier to enjoy the savory taste while consciously aware that the pleasure one is deriving is a reflection of the Divine in the food. When a meal is conducted in this manner, the pleasure of the food becomes a conduit to achieve the spiritual joy of passionate connection to the Almighty. Aware that ... music induces a high state of consciousness…the Ari wrote poems for each of the three Shabbat meals…

Another traditional way of interrupting the Shabbat meal is with song. Music is one of the seven wisdoms given to us to find G‑d through His concealment within nature, and consequently, it has been used as a means of arousal to enter a prophetic trance since the beginning of times. Aware that the sound of music induces a high state of consciousness sensitizing man to feel his additional soul, the Ari wrote poems for each of the three Shabbat meals.

The sharpening of our sensory perceptions, the product of our additional soul, allows us to use all our physical senses as a means to lift the veil of concealment separating us from the Beloved.

By anticipating and preparing for Shabbat throughout the week, we transform our body and our possessions into vessels that can hold the divine Shabbat light. Clothes that are purchased specifically for use on Shabbat acquire a level of holiness similar to that of the priestly garments used in the Temple. This holiness subsequently influences and uplifts the wearer.

With the arrival of Shabbat, we move farther inward. It is on Shabbat itself that we experience the delight. Maimonides explains that if one prepares a meal with the intention of honoring Shabbat, this meal acquires an intrinsic holiness which helps to refine our inner spiritual vessels to the point where they are flooded by the intense pleasure of the Divine.

This, then, is the meaning and implication of the delight of Shabbat, Jacob's legacy to us: the ability to use the Shabbat food and drink as a means of arousal from which one can attain the spiritual fire of the Shabbat delight. Delighting in Shabbat by savoring the delicacies prepared raises our consciousness…

Delighting in Shabbat by savoring the delicacies prepared raises our consciousness to the spiritual level of the Holy Temple. In the Temple, the priests consumed the highest offerings which infused them with holiness. On Shabbat, this concept of delight is revealed in its full force, influencing all our character traits. It is from this fountain that blessings and holiness spring forth. Thus, the Talmud teaches: He who delights in Shabbat is granted his heart's desires, for it is written, "take delight in G‑d and He will give you the desires of your heart."

What is "the desires of your Heart"? To be able to feel the connection to Almighty as the Companion of our soul. This is indeed a "high" but one whose essence is holy.

As we take leave of the Shabbat Queen, we will direct the energy filling us toward the Divine service of the six weekdays in the knowledge that the fruit of our labor will be an unprecedented "high" on the following Shabbat. Hence, every Shabbat experience builds upon the previous one, to the extent that our Divine awareness of the preceding Shabbat is almost like a weekday consciousness compared to that of Shabbat that follows.

[From "Living the Kabbalah: A Guide to the Sabbath and Festivals in the Teachings of Rabbi Rafael Moshe Luria".]

Simcha H. Benyosef is a scholar living in Jerusalem. Formerly a close student of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Benyosef is also the translator of the 16th century Safed classic, Reishit Chochma ("Beginning of Wisdom").
Rabbi Rafael Moshe Luria was a contemporary teacher of Kabbala in Jerusalem and a direct descendent of the Ari. (He passed away in 2009.)
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Webmaster Tzefat, Israel via kabbalaonline.org July 30, 2014

Re: Oneg & Chefetz A better translation for Chefetz would be 'Desire.' See (psalm 34:13 and) the next-to-last paragraph in the article. Reply

Anonymous canada July 19, 2014

I would like to know more about the words oneg and chephets. in the english translation they seem nearly identical in description. how do they differ in a hebrew/jewish mindset? I have a better understanding of Isaiah 58:13 from the above description of oneg "delight" [in Hebrew, "oneg"] is also expressed as a joy in which all the parts of the body share in it equally, as if one were rejoicing for many different reasons simultaneously." but i don't understand the difference with doing my "pleasure" chephets.
Thank you Reply

Anonymous Superior, CO via kabbalaonline.org January 19, 2010

Shabbat: Gateway to Delight Thank you!

Shabbat shalom. Reply

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