It is Shabbat morning here in Eretz Yisrael.
As I sit here, on this sunny and peaceful morning, sipping my morning coffee, I marvel at the wisdom of G-d, for dedicating one day a week to resting and turning the Shabbat into an Oneg , a pleasure.
Shabbat is the most important holiday in the Jewish/Hebrew calendar. It has got to be. Not only does it occur 52 times a year, it is first and foremost the sign of the Covenant between G-d and Am Yisrael, entered at Mount Sinai.
According to Shemot Rabba 25:12; Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 1:1 "the scion of David (Mashiach) will come if they [Am Yisrael] keep just one Shabbat, because the Shabbat is equivalent to all the mitzvot.”
Now, I am not an observant Jew in the traditional sense of the word. I do not have the self-discipline that is needed to be one. I do, however, respect this Mitzvah and remember it each Friday evening when I light Shabbat candles.
For me, Shabbat is a day of reckoning, a day or reflection and a day of expressing gratitude.
Shabbat, according to Ahad Ha'am, a Jewish writer and thinker, has also preserved and shielded Am Yisrael more than our people have kept it.
But is it not only remembering the Shabbat that we, Jews, are required. We are also commanded to observe it.
Let us be honest to ourselves, my fellow Jews. Have we ALL kept and observed this Mitzvah?
The answer, my friends, is known.
We, or at least most of us, do, however, remember Shabbat. In fact, here in Eretz Yisrael, it is impossible not to remember it. We feel it in the air each Friday. The stores are hustling and bustling with last minute shopping. Jews, observant, secular, atheists, as one, wish each other "Shabbat Shalom," as they rush home to prepare, each in their own way, for this very special day.
This few millennia old tradition has been passed on to us from generation to generation.
Time to pause and ask ourselves, who were the true guardians of Shabbat over the centuries?
The answer always leads me to one group, Hareidi and ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Probably not the answer that many would like to hear. In my view, though, it is that very group which many of us disagree with, oppose, mock, despise and resent, which has contributed much to preserving the Shabbat legacy. And yes, there are many aspects of that segment in our Jewish society that I will never approve of.
Nonetheless, let us face it. It is them and their practices that have brought us thus far. If not for their staunch adherence and dedication, often at a dear and high price for their safety and well-being, the Mitzvah and tradition of keeping Shabbat would have not been observed and preserved, at least not the way and manner that G-d has intended for us.
I believe it is them, the few who our great national poet, Bialik described in his immortal poem “ אם יש את נפשך לדעת “ (“If your soul wishes to know” which I highly recommend to any Hebrew literate person to read) as “a few ears of grain, a shadow of what has remained, sorrowful Jews, with dried faces, Jews of the Galut (Diaspora), the ones carrying its burden, those who drown their sorrow in a fading page of Gemara, trying to consign to oblivion their poverty through the ancient debate of the Midrash, trying to forget their worries by reciting Psalms.” A poor sight indeed, but one that has ensured our role in history and has helped us remain the People of Eternity. They are, according to Bialik, “the treasure of our soul,” the “guardians of our great Jewish Spirit.” They are but “a spark,” a sliver of Hope, "the remnant that was miraculously rescued from the great fire which our forefathers had kept burning on their altars, always.”
Hareidi Jews, whether we like to admit it or not, also, are the guardians of our people and our tradition. I will never forget that. I cannot forget that and forever will be grateful to them and all the other Guardians of the wonderful gift of Shabbat throughout our turmoiled and eventful Jewish history.