middot equanimity torah do not kindle flame

do not kindle flame

Written by  rav rafael

art-candlesAs I write this my beloved wife is on the other side of the country for a weekend women’s retreat.   It is a Friday afternoon and my awareness of the coming Shabbat seems to be elevated in her absence.  The many things that I take for granted come to the forefront of my mind as those responsibilities shift to me this weekend.  The Shabbat is a wonderful thing for a family in this modern age of busyness and distractions.   The Shabbat comes whether we are prepared or not and can often be a great challenge to glide into smoothly. 

Ideally, we come home early from work or school and all help with the preparations for the final day of the week.  The reality is that if our week is off balance, we end up crash landing into Shabbat in the last hour or minutes before it starts.  The food is cooked, the table is set, Shabbat Candles are lit, and yet we are frazzled.  After a busy week, the last push for preparing for Shabbat can be a big stress and go against the very nature Shabbat should represent in our lives.  Shabbat Menucha (Sabbath Rest) seems like a utopian ideal on Friday nights.  Equanimity is definitely out the window.  The Torah warned us of this long ago.

לֹא תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת

You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day. (Exodus 35:3)


Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twersky points out one of the sages’ key interpretations of this verse.

Of all the activities that are forbidden on Shabbos that are derived by Talmudic exegesis, the Torah singles out one: "You shall not kindle a flame in all your dwellings" (Exodus 35:3). Rabbi Chaim of Czernovitz (Siduro shel Shabbos) explains that in addition to being a forbidden type of work, making a fire also refers to the flame of rage. Inasmuch as rage is forbidden at any time, the special precaution means that we must make extra effort to avoid anger on Shabbos.

In the hustle of getting things ready for the “Shabbat Crash Landing” we find our expectations way out ahead of our preparations.  We all expect Shabbat to be the refuge we need and hope for all week.  We put our lofty expectations on this one day because it forces us to stop from the busyness and distractions.   Shabbat and pre-Shabbat are the times when we are most susceptible to anger and disappointment.  Often we or someone else misses the mark in getting ourselves ready for the big day.

In our pursuit of menuchat hanefesh (calmness of the soul / equanimity), we must make sure to keep the big picture of time and preparation for Shabbat through our week.  Ideally, each day in the week should be a day of counting toward the next Shabbat.  Our anticipation of the special day should be accompanied by small acts of preparation through the week so we are not stressed at the end.  These small acts take very little time, but stave off the calamity of doing everything at the last minute which can anger the soul.  These are not only practical acts, but spiritual acts of connection to the best day of the week.  Keeping the “big picture” of our week in perspective will help us balance our time, resources, and spiritual diligence in all things.

The preparation for Shabbat serves as a model for all that we accomplish in life.  Preparation relieves heartache, anxiety and anger.  The middah of order (סֵדֶר) here intersects with our pursuit of equanimity.  As you end the Shabbat, and light the havdalah candle to say goodbye to the week, I encourage you to start looking forward to the next Shabbat.  Plan out your week.  When the unexpected happens you’ve already covered for the expected.

As we snuff out the havdalah candle and sing “Eliyahu Hanavi,” our anticipation is drawn to the next Shabbat and Yeshua, who is the Lord of the Shabbat.  Our anticipation is drawn to him as we live our week and prepare for the messianic era of Shabbat Menucha, a time of rest for our souls.

Shabbat Shalom!

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