Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shabbat Vayenafash

When we lit the candles last night, I felt it.  I could feel the tangible embrace of Shabbat.  A presence in the room.  When we do the little Havdalah service at the end of Shabbat on Saturday night, I just as tangibly feel it leave.  There is an emptiness, like a person has left the house.  The Shabbath Bride has departed.

Sometimes just as I wake in the morning, there will be a little message in my mind -- a sentence or a few words that are meaningful in some way.  Maybe a leftover fragment of a dream.  One morning I awoke with a sentence: "It's the vayenafash that really makes Shabbat." 

My hebrew is so limited, I can't translate that with surety, but it is the final part of the V'shamru, which, translated by others, says

"And the Children of Israel observed the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath for their generations an eternal covenant. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever, that in six days did G-d make the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh day G-d rested and was refreshed."
Vayenafash translates here as was rested and refreshed, but "nefesh" means soul, so basically, a more literal translation might say that G-d rested and became ensouled on the seventh day.  What!  G-d became ensouled!  That really gives me something to think about. 
I become refreshed and ensouled when we observe Shabbat, that I know.  Twenty-five hours with no business, no reading the mail, no paying bills, no dealing with this or that, no work or worrying about work, nothing jangling, Shalom bayit, peace in the home, peace faithfully kept, hospitality toward one another, behaving as though there were an honored guest in the house.  The Sabbath Bride is in residence until we can see three stars in the night sky. 
And then, she leaves.  You can feel her go as surely as if she were a living person.  When the braided Havdalah candle is extinguished in the dregs of the wine, we have separated the sacred from the ordinary and are back to our everyday lives.  Our guest has left us. But the lessons learned in keeping the peace and maintaing hospitality stay with us.  Over years of practice, they become who we are every day and not simply on Shabbos. 
It is said we are given an extra soul for the day, a Shabbat soul, and that is what vayenafesh refers to. 

Whatever it refers to, it's the thing that makes it work.  This I know, with or without my waking revelation. 
photo credit: flickr

1 comment:

  1. Hi there, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    I woke up this very morning with a similar sentence in my mind : shabbat vayenafesh : ve haya nefesh.
    I googled it and came across your blog !
    Kind of recursion here actually ;)
    Anyway, here are my thoughts:
    Since nefesh is the first level of soul (nefesh, rouah, neshama) and since i'm a computer programmer, i was thinking about nefesh as the reptilian brain, the first level of our brain who's in charge for breathing and other vital and very basic things. Of course breathing is done quite automaticly since you don't have to think of breathing in order to breath. It makes sense with the tsim-tsoum notion : the architect has enabled nefesh, the autopilot for creatures, and so can rest for few hours...
    So it makes me think. Today we have lot of computers in this world. Most of them are used to regulate money transactions automaticly. So how come we became slave of our own technology instead of using it in order to rest (or to be free) ?

    Shabbat shalom.