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Causing Divine Joy

בס''ד

 

Shabbat Meals Steps to Divine Consciousness

 

If you are searching for ways in which to cause pleasure on high you must above all to think of Shabbat. Shabbat is one of our most important mitzvot. One could even say that it is the backbone of all our mitzvot.[1] The Torah tells us many times that we must keep the Shabbat: first in Bereshit-Genesis, then in Shemot-Exodus. Then, in the book of Vayikra-Leviticus, where after Hashem tells us that we must be holy because He is holy, there is a verse saying:[2] “Keep My Sabbaths.” Because Hashem is saying “My Shabbats,” we receive the message that Shabbat has to do with something that is relevant to Hashem more than it is to us.

 

There is a book of mystical knowledge called The Bahir, which gives an example to help you understand what Hashem is asking of you:[3] Once upon a time there was a king who had children. The children loved him as he loved them. He told them: Look, all I do is for your sake. I do things to help you all the time. Now, I am asking you to do this for me, to honor me in this way: Be there for me, on one day of the week. I want you to rejoice with me on my day of joy. In a similar way Hashem is saying to Israel: Just like I rejoice on your days of joy, I am asking you to rejoice with Me on My day of joy which is the Shabbat.

 

When the Holy One is asking you to keep His Sabbaths, He is also telling you: When you are suffering afflictions, your pain is My pain, as the verse says:[4] “I am with him in distress,” consequently when I am in joy, I want you be in joy as well. As it were, the Divine joy is not complete without our full participation.[5]

 

On Shabbat, Hashem asks you to open yourself to His Inner Light through the three Shabbat tefilot – prayers, as well as to allow His Surrounding Light to enwrap us by hosting three Shabbat seudot – meals for Him. These three meals correspond to three levels of faith that each Jew is expected to attain in his lifetime.[6] Participating in the Divine joy on the Shabbat day thus has to do with the three meals we are asked to prepare for this day, and to enjoy them after participating in the prayer to be said before each of these meals. Each of the meals is connected with an aspect of the Divine Presence that Hashem is revealing to us at the time of the meal. By preparing the meal and then participating in its enjoyment, you are fulfilling what is required of us by Jewish law. Even if you are bedridden and preparing a meal is beyond your ability at the present, by setting aside a roll of bread or half a spelt matza which may be easier to digest, together with a delicious spread or filling to go with it, having in mind that this will be your special Shabbat meal, you are also fulfilling what is required.

 

But you may want to do more than just what’s required. We are made in the Divine image. Therefore, in order to understand what it involves causing the Divine joy, we may find an example in a human relationship. Imagine that you are running for governor of your state. In the special country you live in, the governor has to go through exacting tests of all kinds. You go through the tests, one after the other, a group of close followers helping you at every step of the way. Eventually, when you succeed and become governor, your joy knows no bounds. You ask your staff to organize a party of celebration. The day of the party arrives and everyone comes. They all say to you: We prepared this meal to celebrate with you. Is that true, you ask yourself and look around. There are those who are there just to ingratiate you; they are citizens of the state and want a good relationship with the coming governor. In contrast there are those who followed you in every one of your tests, who are knowingly rejoicing with you; they are aware that you will be a better leader than anyone else running for office. Is that all? No, there is also a third group of people in your party. There are those who were not close enough to you in order to follow you through the steps of your trials, but troubled themselves to find out what were these steps. They tell you: We prepared this meal to celebrate with you on how you were able to overcome the difficulties in step one, step two, step three…. You look at them thinking: They don’t really understand what the steps involved but it is clear that they want a closer relationship and they are really rejoicing with me.

 

The point of this essay is to help you be among the third group of people when trying to participate in the Divine joy in the three Shabbat meals. The Holy One reveals Himself to you in a different way in each of the three meals and if at this moment in your life it is not possible for you to inquire what is really going on in each meal, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai prepared a statement for you to say in the Aramaic language. Each of the three statements captures the essence of the meal and by saying the statement, even if you do not fully understand its deeper meaning, you are expressing your total faith – more than that, your awareness – that right now, in this meal you are in Hashem’s presence.

 

The late Torah Sage, Rabbi Pincus, z’l, asks:[7]

 

How do we create this lofty sense of being in Hashem’s presence? We don’t have to “create” it. It already exists… We must know Who is sitting at the table. In the zemiros we say, “Askinu se’udasa… Askinu means that Hashem is inviting us to His table. He is the host and we are His guests.

 

The Shabbat meals are said to cause Divine joy, for together, these three meals are to equip us with a faith bordering on Divine consciousness that we will be able to draw on for the coming week. Hence, by reading the statement prepared for each of the Shabbat meals you are expressing your deep desire to participate in the Divine joy by acquiring the level of faith counterpart of this meal. 

 

First Shabbat seudah

 

The first Shabbat seudah-meal corresponds to the first level of faith, and to our state of consciousness at the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites were scared… they did not know for sure… they threatened to go back at the slightest problem! The only thing they had for sure is faith, albeit a basic level of faith that had not yet grown into a deep rooted trust. That is how we are as the Shabbat begins, for we have not yet fully acquired the Shabbat consciousness. We have this seudah at night after we have just stated our faith in the Amidah prayer that Hashem set aside the Shabbat as His special day.

Just before this meal, you should read the following statement, which may be found in most siddurim-prayer books. If you read Hebrew, read it as it appears below, and if not, you may read the transliteration and translation that follows:

 

אָתקִינו סעוּדָתָא דִמהֵמנוּתָא שׁלֵימָתָא. חֶדוֵתָה דמַלכָּה קַדִישָׁא.

אָתקִינוּ סעוּדָתָא דמַלכָּה. דָּא הִיא סעוּדָתָא דַחֲקַל תַּפּוּחִין קַדּישִׁין.

 וּזעֵיר אַנפִּין ועַתִּיקָא קַדִּישָא אַתיָן לסַעֲדָה בַּהֲדֵיה.

 

Prepare the meal of perfect faith, the joy of the Holy King.

Prepare the meal of the King. This is the feast of the Orchard of Holy Apples [aspect of Hashem corresponding to the Shechina, closest to the collective souls of Israel]. Zeir Anpin and Atika Kadisha are also present at this meal.

 

Atkinu seudata dimehemnuta shelemata chedvata demalka kadisha.

Atkinu seudata de malka. Da hi seudata dechakal tapuchin kadishin

Uzeir anpin veatika kadisha atian lesaadah bahadeh.

 

Second Seudah

On Shabbat morning, prior to the Torah reading, you sing, along with the synagogue members if you attend services, Ata Hereta Ladaat – You were shown to see… Soon after the Israelites left Egypt, finding themselves sandwiched between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptians and Moshe cried out in prayer, the Holy One replied, “Why do you cry out to me?” The meaning of this answer was that if the Israelites showed full bitachon-trust in His Providence, it would silence all the heavenly Accusers and they would be saved. When Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped into the sea advancing till the water reached his waist, the sea water split, and the entire nation saw that Hashem fills the world like the soul fills the body, and consequently can change the order of nature according to His Will.

You are aiming to acquire this level of faith at the second seudah, in which you engage after the morning-prayer. More than emunah-faith, this is bitachon-trust, and it is what the sufferer needs to know when feeling afflicted but still holding on to the certainty that God is with him and helping him in the way that he needs to be helped. The effect of trust as a Surrounding Light is alluded to in the Psalms,[8] “s/he who trusts in Hashem will be enveloped in lovingkindness.” One may have blocked his soul’s inner channels of shefa-Divine bounty because of past errors, but s/he can still receive a renewed supply of life force in the merit of his trust in Divine Providence.

At the time of the second seudah we receive lights from the highest level of holiness, connected to the revelation of Atika Kadisha and referred to as keter-crown, which opens us to the mysteries of Torah.[9] These lights are linked with the crowns that Hashem attached to the letters that are seen in the scrolls from which the Torah portion is read on the Shabbat day.  

Just before this meal, read the following statement:

 

אָתקִינו סעוּדָתָא דִמהֵמנוּתָא שׁלֵימָתָא. חֶדוֵתָה דמַלכָּה קַדִישָׁא

אָתקִינוּ סעוּדָתָא דמַלכָּה. דָּא הִיא סעוּדָתָא דּעַתִּיקָא קַדִּישָא. וחֲקַל תַּפּוּחִין קַדּישִׁין   

וּזעֵיר אַנפִּין אַתיָן לסַעֲדָה בַּהֲדֵיה.

 

Prepare the meal of perfect faith, the joy of the Holy King.

Prepare the meal of the King. This is the meal of Atika Kadisha. And the Orchard of Holy Apples as well Zeir Anpin are also present at this meal.

 

Atkinu seudata dimehemnuta shelemata. Chedvata demalka kadisha

Atkinu seudata demalka. Da hi seudatata deAtika Kadisha. Vechakal tapuchin kadishin

Uzeir anpin atian lesaadah bahadeh.

 

The words Atika Kadisha allude to a Divine supervision of total and unconditional lovingkindness. When Hashem acts as King and Ruler of His nation as on the weekdays, He does not exercise unconditional giving because this would undermine the Divine purpose of Creation, according to which we must earn a reward. In contrast, on Shabbat at this time, Hashem is emitting the consciousness of this lofty revelation and consequently, in the Kiddush prayer over wine before the second Shabbat seudah we cite the verse: [10]Then you will delight in God – In Hebrew ‘al Hashem’. The word ‘al’ literally means ‘over’; this verse is thus never translated literally. Its deeper meaning is that at this time, your above cited statement of faith places you over the Divine supervision of the weekdays.[11]

 

As Rabbi Aharon Rota teaches,[12] the way of our Creator is to test man’s trust in Him, and if man strengthens himself in total trust of Hashem, then even if God forbid a harsh Divine decree was pronounced against him, it will be sweetened and mitigated on high, and changed into a sign of Divine lovingkindness for himself as well as for all the House of Israel now and forever.

 

 

Third Seudah

The third level of faith is counterpart of our receiving the Torah in Sinai, when we were One with Hashem. The third seudah occurs right after we say in the Amidah prayer of Shabbat afternoon, “You are One, Your Name is One, and the People of Israel are one.”

We have the third Shabbat seudah in honor of Hashem as our King Who, throughout the weekdays, acts as a judge. Thus the name zeir anpin which implies ‘short countenance,’ for a king and judge is not always able to act with extended kindness. However, now it is time out and we rejoice with Hashem at the outpouring of unlimited love and giving directed upon us, to the point that the foremost sage known as Ben Ish Chai suggested changing the word zeir for zahir-brilliant in the statement preceding the third Shabbat seudah.  

By the time this seudah comes, you are aiming to attain the focused awareness of His Presence linked with the message of unity that we have stated in the afternoon prayer, so that you will always be conscious of Hashem’s loving Presence in everything that happens to you, as small and unimportant as it may be. And the more you succeed, the more you increase Hashem’s Providence, not only over yourself, but also over the entire people of Israel, so that His Presence is no longer concealed but totally revealed, as it will be in the Geulah–redemption.

Just before this meal, read the following statement:

 

אָתקִינו סעוּדָתָא דִמהֵמנוּתָא שׁלֵימָתָא. חֶדוֵתָה דמַלכָּה קַדִישָׁא

אָתקִינוּ סעוּדָתָא דמַלכָּה. דָּא הִיא סעוּדָתָא דזהיר אַנפִּין ועַתִּיקָא קַדִּישָא

וחֲקַל תַּפּוּחִין קַדּישִׁין אַתיָן לסַעֲדָה בַּהֲדֵיה. 

 

Prepare the meal of perfect faith, the joy of the Holy King.

Prepare the meal of the King. This is the seuda meal of Zeir Anpin. And Atika Kadisha as well as Chakal Tapuchin Kadishin are also present at this meal.

 

Atkinu seudata dimehemnuta shelemata. Chedvata demalka kadisha

Atkinu seudata demalka. Da hi seudatata de ze’ir anpin. VeAtika Kadisha vechakal tapuchin kadishin atian lesaadah bahadeh.


 

The third level of faith has the quality of knowledge bordering on seeing. At this time we may have an experiential perception of the consciousness that we are promised to attain in the Ultimate Future, mirroring the Sinai experience in which we were One with the Holy One and we are asking to retain it in order to illuminate the darkness of the weekdays.

 

When the Shabbat ends, we say vihi noam:[13] May the pleasantness of my Lord, our God, be upon us, asking that the awesome feeling of closeness to the Holy One infusing the Shabbat day be upon us, namely, may we also be able to draw the noam-feeling Hashem’s closeness in our weekday prayers.[14]

 

Notice how we say before each seudah: Prepare the meal of perfect faith, the joy of the Holy King. Prepare the meal of the King. Why the repetition? We are being reminded of the two essential elements of the Shabbat meals. The first is that we draw to ourselves different levels of faith and this, if it can be said, causes Divine joy. We then repeat, Prepare the meal of the King, for we are now receiving a revelation of a type of closeness particular to the Holy One and the people of Israel, one for each of the three seudot, each one higher than the former, derived from the prayer which is part and parcel of the Shabbat meal, and for each of these levels of closeness we prepare a seuda in which we may convey our awareness.

 

One heart is mirror of another and the same is true in our relationship with Hashem.[15] As we sharpen our consciousness of Hashem and arouse our desire for closeness, expressing this through Hashem’s time of joy, then Hashem’s love toward us becomes aroused, as water reflects a face back to a face. This becomes a double love whose mirror reflection comes back to us, ever growing as a flame ascending on its own, intensifying in its growth in a self-reinforcing cycle and allowing us to grow closer to Hashem on every succeeding Shabbat.

 

 



[1] The following section is based on Rabbi Moshe Luria, “Et Shabetotai Tishmoru” in Bet Genazai ‘al haTorah: Vayikra, p. 661ff. I have also drawn on this topic from the “Maamar Shalosh Seudot beShabbat” in Maamarei Shabbat, 1st edition. Vol. 2, pp. 492ff (especially from section II, on p. 494ff).   

[2] Leviticus 19:30: The Living Torah.

[3] As cited by Rabbi Luria in “Bechol Beiti Neeman Hu,”Hashmatot sefer ha Zohar Bereshit be shem Sefer haBahir al ha passuk et shabetotai tishmoru. The Bahir was translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. New York: Moznaim Publishers.

[4] Psalms 91:15.

[5] As taught in Maamarei Shabbat, 1st edition, Volume 1, p. 15.

[6] Rabbi R. Moshe Luria, Bet Genazai ‘al haTorah: Shemot I: “Shalosh Seudot beShabbat”, pp. 501ff.

[7] Nefesh Shimshon, Shabbos Kodesh: Making the Most of Shabbos (culled from Rabbi Pincus’ lectures) Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 2009, pp 36 and 62.

[8] Psalms, 32:10.

[9] Adapted from Rabbi Moshe Luria, Bet Genazai: Pitchei Tefilah, vol 2 on Shabbat, “Seudot Shabbat hashlamat likrat haTorah, pp. 358ff.

[10] Isaiah 58:13-14.

[11] As explained by Rabbi Luria in Bet Genazai: Maamarei Shabbat, first edition: vol. 2, p. 514.

[12] Sefer Shomer Emunim. See the essay “Sweetening Judgment.”

[13] Psalms 90:17. Tehillim: The ArtScroll Tanach Series. New York: Mesorah Publications, ltd. 1985.

[14] Rabbi Moshe Luria, Maamarei Shabbat, 2nd ed., “Seudot Shabbat Zecher Liziat Mitzrayim,” p 493.

[15] Rabbi Moshe Luria, Bet Genazai ‘al haTorah: Devarim vol I, “Asher lo yada’ta ata veavotecha,” p. 648-649.

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