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Shabbat must belong to all Jews
Israelis and Jews around the world should recognize that Shabbat observance has something to offer everyone
Recently major cosmetics company Il-Makiage made news by deciding to close all of its stores in Israel on the Shabbat. This was somewhat of a controversial move because Shabbat has long been a contentious issue in Israel.

 

Religious people keep the Shabbat by not going to work, not driving, going to the synagogue, eating special meals and a whole host of the restrictions and rituals that comprise the traditional observance of the day. Since Israel is a Jewish state run by Jews, many religious Jews feel that it is proper for the state to officially observe the Shabbat. Some religious people feel that it is an affront to G-d for the Shabbat to be desecrated in a Jewish state.

 

Conversely, secular Israelis feel that as a democracy Israel is a free country and if they want to work or shop on Shabbat no one should have the right to stop them. Any attempt to limit their activities amounts to religious coercion in their view.

 

Unfortunately in the heat of the debate hatred is created all around. People on both sides of this debate rarely ever talk to each other or try to understand the other side’s point of view. Tragically, therefore, the beauty of the Shabbat observance is lost in this entire debate.

 

Il-Makiage has done Israeli society a service by trying to explain Shabbat to its customers. In an interview with Ynet they explained how it is important for their own employees to get at least one day off a week. Whilst there is much wisdom is this approach there is much more to Shabbat than just that.

 

Begin to look outwards

We all go through our daily life trying to achieve success in our chosen fields and to be truly successful we need to be creative. Personal success brings a pride and belief our abilities. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with feeling that way about ourselves, too much of it can breed narcissism and arrogance.

 

Taking one day a week to step off the treadmill of regular life to look at the world from a completely different perspective is not only incredibly healthy it is spiritually and emotionally enriching as well. Shabbat is not meant to be a burden rather it should be seen as a weekly event that causes us to reevaluate the way we see things. It should make us cognizant of the fact that we are but a creation of a Higher Power and that whatever we can achieve pales into insignificance when it is compared to the Creator of the universe.

 

When we get into that type of mindset we begin to look outwards rather than inwards. We become less self absorbed and more open to the needs of others. It causes us to recalibrate our priorities. Suddenly family becomes more important as does our relationships with our friends and with G-d. On Sunday we return to our work week and again immerse ourselves in the mundane universe. Again we wrestle with nature and use our creative energies to overcome the struggles and obstacle that are thrown our way. But our work days are still influenced by the ambiance of Shabbat and as soon as that wears off Shabbat comes around again to remind us to remain balanced.

 

This explains why our sages tell us that Shabbat blesses our work week (The Zohar vol. II, 63b). So whilst Il-Makiage told Ynet that it expects to lose “a lot of money” because of the Shabbat closures in the long run they certainly stand to gain. And we must remember that not all gains can be measured in hard cash—although I am sure that Il-Makiage will stand to gain that too. But the same applies to all people.

 

Ultimately Shabbat should be something that all Jews feel an ownership over. Maybe this is one more step that can help Israelis and Jews around the world move beyond the rancor and recognize that Shabbat observance has something to offer everyone.

 

Rabbi Levi Brackman is author of Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Lesson from the Torah and Other Ancient Texts

 

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