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Shabbat Mussaf: Physical Joy

In order to achieve proper Dveikut with God it is necessary to indulge matter, for otherwise the “heaviness” of matter will prevent form from attaining attachment by means of happiness with God.


I have heard a solution based on this principle to a difficulty raised by the Tosafot to Masechet Beitzah (15b, s.v. levu). The Talmud teaches that the Holy One says to Israel, “Borrow on My account to buy wine so as to recite the kiddush sanctifying Shabbat; and have faith in Me, and I shall pay you back.” Whereupon the Tosafot raise the question that this conflicts with what is taught by the Sages, “Better to make your Shabbat like a weekday than rely upon other people (Shabbat 118a).”

I heard from the Maggid, Rabbi Mendel, that “levu alai,” has two meanings: “borrow on My account,” and, “be attached to Me,” and one depends upon the other; in order to bind and attach oneself to God, it is necessary to make the body and the material happy, so that they do not impede the soul’s happiness and attachment to God. And that is how we must understand the answer to our question: “levu alai,” if you borrow money so that you can attach your self to Me, then I shall pay you back; but if you borrow only for your own pleasure, then it is better to make your Shabbat into a weekday and not rely upon others.

If you should ask what bodily needs like eating and drinking have to do with  Dveikut, and attachment to God, and with the soul, which is altogether spiritual and in no need of eating and drinking, the answer is that matter and body cannot experience the joy of attachment with God except in the corporeal acts of eating and drinking. When this is lacking the body is saddened him and prevents the soul from attaching itself to Him, which can take place only through joy. Hence, “Borrow on My account,” to keep matter happy, so that both matter and spirit will be happy.

This is similar to the parable of the Prince who was exiled by his father and fell in with people of low station. After many years, a letter from the King finally arrived for him. He wanted to celebrate and to invite the others to share his happiness, but he knew that they would not understand the joy that reading the letter gave him. So, he ordered drinks for all the people of low station, with the material, to enable them to be happy while he was happy with the spiritual.

Toledot Yaakov Yosef, Mishpatim

The pleasure we derive from the physical on Shabbat is not a distraction; it is our way of allowing our physical to find joy in Shabbat, for it is only when the physical is happy that it will allow the spiritual to find joy in its attachment to God.

This should be used as a Kavanah in the Shabbat Mussaf: “those who delight in it will inherit eternal honor, those who savor it will merit life.” We must delight not only in the spiritual but in the physical as well.

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