Transcending Gravity Made Easy

Very little of the actual writings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of Chassidism, have survived.  One of the few “authenticated” samples is his commentary on Psalm 107, which he recited before the mincha of Erev Shabbat, the afternoon prayer for Friday afternoons, just before Shabbat.

He discusses (verses 5-7) what might be described as a polarity shift as we enter Shabbat. The נצוצי הקודש, netzutzei ha-kodesh, the holy sparks which are embedded in our everyday reality, and which it is our task to discover and then, each of us according to our own unique soul’s configuration, lift into holiness, are very deeply embedded during the week. They require a tremendous amount of effort to perform this task.

When Shabbat arrives, however, the sparks themselves yearn to ascend and it is very easy for us to lift them.  (In fact, this is the secret behind the idea of an extra soul, נשמה יתירה, neshama y’teira, which is responsible for our enhanced appetite and the emphasis on eating on Shabbat.)  These holy sparks are defined as the very pleasure we find in our food, making them almost effortless to “process” (i.e. find and elevate).

Shabbat is meant to be easy, a period of great ease. Rather than intensifying our effort, as you might think befits the eternally holiest day, recognize and adapt to this polarity shift. Even on weekdays, God is eager to receive processed sparks. On Shabbat, that task is made immeasurably easier for us. Let us become weightless, allow ourselves to float almost effortlessly to the highest realm. Let’s fill the day and ourselves with שלום, Shalom, true peace.

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