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The Ibn Ezra’s Letter of Shabbat

The Ibn Ezra published a pamphlet, Iggeret HaShabbat on Octorber 30, 1158, the 7th of Kislev: “A burdensome prophecy concerning Duma (Edom): He calls out to Me because of Seir: ‘Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?’ The Watchman said, ‘Morning is coming, but also night. If you really desire it, repent and come.’” (Isaiah 21:11-12) The Yerushalmi (Ta’anit 1) explains: The people cried to Isaiah; “Our Rebbi, Isaiah, what will come out of this night for us?” “Wait,” he said, “until I can ask.”

He returned to the people, and they cried, “What did the Watchman say? What did the One Who guards the world say?”

“He said, ‘Morning is coming, but also night.’”  “When will morning come?” they asked their prophet. “If you really desire it, repent and come. If you really desire it, it will come now!”

They asked, “What is stopping it?”

Rabbi Acha said in the name of Rabbi Tanchum in the yeshiva of Rabbi Chiya, “If only Israel would do Teshuva for one day, the Son of David would immediately come.”

Rabbi Levi said, “If only Israel would properly observe one Shabbat, the Son of David would immediately come!”

We must understand, says the Ibn Ezra, that the exile was caused by the violation of Shabbat.

The Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu, chapter 26, says, “The Holy One, Blessed is He, says to Israel, ‘If you fulfill the Mitzvah to Remember the Shabbat day to make it holy, you will achieve real pleasure in this world. If you violate the Shabbat, I will sprinkle you among the nations!”

The end of the exile is like the final moments before Shabbat and the light of Israel will shine. Evil will battle against us by tempting us to violate the Shabbat, because that is the most powerful tool to bring redemption. (Opening Paragraph of Introduction to Iggeret HaShabbat)

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