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Parshas Vayakhel

Shabbos: "Head" of the Week

“You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day”. (Exodus 35:3)

One Friday night, HaRav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the famous and saintly Rabbi of Jerusalem (died 1932), had to call a doctor to see his wife, who was very ill. He hurried to the house of the well-known Dr. Schwartz and found the doctor holding a lantern. R' Yosef Chaim, though pained to witness the Shabbos being violated, began to walk back home with the doctor to see his wife.

Along the way, R’ Yosef Chaim struck up a conversation. "You are a famous doctor. You must be aware of the relative size of the head in respect to the rest of the body." The doctor looked up and answered, "Well, as a matter of fact, I know that the head is usually one-seventh the height of the body."

R' Yosef Chaim then related the following parable: One day, all the organs of the body came together and complained to the head. “Look at how unfair our relationship is. We do all the hard and tiring work – the arms push and lift, the legs walk and carry all the weight, and all the other organs exhaust themselves doing the day’s work – yet when the day is over it is you who open your mouth to enjoy all the tasty foods and you who gets to take part in the pleasure of a good conversation. It’s just not fair!” The head nodded patiently and replied, “You are right that I get the better part of the deal, but it is no more than I deserve. You see, who do you think plans all your various activities, prioritizing them, and making sure that you do them properly and well, thereby making them meaningful? Is it not I? If it were not for me, you would all be useless – just running around all week like a chicken without a head – and it is therefore I who deserve the best of everything!”

The doctor was amused by the story, and he wholeheartedly agreed that the head was truly the head. R' Yosef Chaim then made his point. "In the same way, G-d divided the days of the week. He took one day out seven and gave it to man as a day of rest. By doing so He liberated man from physical exertions on behalf of his material well-being, allowing him to focus on his spiritual well-being. And just as the head makes, directs and gives meaning to the activities of the other organs, so too, the Shabbos sets the direction and tone of everyday life, giving it meaning and purpose. If it were not that the Shabbos gives a person the opportunity to restore the spiritual and social balance of his life so often lost in the course of all the running around during the six days of the week, man would truly be lost. This is why Shabbos is such a special gift from G-d to be kept and treasured by each and every Jew.”

Dr. Schwartz and the Rabbi continued to walk in silent contemplation, as the doctor repeated to himself, "The Rabbi is right ... the Rabbi is right ..."

[Source: Guardian of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Artscroll Mesorah Publishing]

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