VaYakhel: Fire Escape

“You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day.” (Exodus 35:3)

While the institution of Shabbos (Sabbath) finds repeated mention throughout the Torah, overall, the Torah offers almost no details regarding its observance, despite its standing as one of the absolute foundations of Torah living. Most of our knowledge regarding proper observance of Shabbos comes from the Oral Law. If God saw fit to assign so much of the details of Shabbos to oral tradition, and to grant only the vaguest references to Shabbos in writing, of the thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbos, why highlight the prohibition against kindling a fire over any of the others?

According to the Shla”h, aside from the plain meaning of the verse not to kindle an actual fire, this prohibition also refers to the fire of anger and strife that burns within a person, or between people. All week long, while we strive against the vicissitudes of the world in our quest to earn a livelihood, we come under stresses and pressures that challenge our emotional state. The resultant anxieties set us on edge, and consequently, the more unseemly elements of our personality bubble to the surface, and we reach a point of negative charge that overflows into our personal lives and our relationships with others.

But on Shabbos, we disconnect from the pressures of the physical world of work, let go of anxiety, and enjoy a day of spirituality and connection with our family, our community and our Creator. The Torah forbids bringing into the sublime Shabbos experience the fire of anger and strife that results from the anxieties of the mundane weekday world.

May we merit to experience the serenity of the holy Shabbos day, washing ourselves of the hardships of the mundane world, as we harness this great gift from our Creator, and delight in connection to our spiritual source.

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