This Shabbat:

Friday Candle Lighting: 7:28 pm
Shabbat Ends: 8:17 pm

Torah Message:

How Do You Spell “Shabbat”?

“These are the appointed festivals of G-d, the holy convocations, which you shall designate in their appropriate times.” (23:4)

A true story.

The scene: Shabbat at a well-known Jewish outreach organization’s outpost in Cyprus. Every Shabbat in the summer months, hundreds of secular Jewish youth flock to experience what may be for them their first-ever taste of Shabbat.

Young student to the Rebbetzin: “Can you give me the code for the wi-fi?”

Rebetzin reprovingly and a little shocked: “It’s Shabbat!”

Student to Rebetzin: “How do you spell that…?”

The four sons at the Seder represent four generations of Jews. If the father doesn’t teach the wise son the minutiae of halacha and its underpinning beauty and meaning, down to the smallest law that one may not eat after the afikoman, then the next generation will be the Rasha (the evil son) who sees no spirituality in Judaism, just labor. “What is this work to you?”

And although the Rasha has some connection, albeit negative, to Judaism, hisson is a simpleton (in a Jewish sense). A Tam. All he remembers is a grandfather with a white beard and a yarmulke who sat him on his lap. All he can say is, “What is this?”

However, the next generation has no memory of a frum zeide. The connection of the fourth generation to Judaism is only the second-hand stories of his father’s memories. He has no idea what to ask. He is the Eino yode’a l’ishol. One who doesn’t even know enough to ask.

Notice there is no fifth son at the Seder.

Cultural memories last for four generation and that’s it.

And yet all is not lost. Something deep in the sense memory, deep in the soul still calls:

“These are the appointed festivals of G-d, the holy convocations, which you shall designate in their appropriate times.”

The root of the word “convocation” is the same as the word “vocal.” They call to us. The festivals have a power to call us to holiness whatever the distance.

Similarly, three lines later the Torah says, “… a holy convocation for you…” Every festival has two parts, the “l’Hashem” part —the prayers and the learning part — the so-called spiritual part; and “l’chem” part – the “for you” part — the physical enjoyment of fine food and drink. The power of the festival convocation, the l’Hashem part “calls” even the “l’chem” part to holiness.

Even if the fifth son’s relationship to Shabbat is the code word for the wi-fi, holiness is still vocal; it is still calling to him.

  • Sources: based on the Chidushei HaRim as seen in Iturei Torah