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From Flickers to Flames- Igniting the 90% Shomrei Shabbos

The letters of the word “vishavta” can be pronounced “vishavas.” The Chida (Nachal Kedumin) writes that this hints to us that for one’s teshuvah to be established, he must become a shomer Shabbos.

 In a letter of support sent on behalf of an organization that seeks to ensure that Shabbos is not desecrated, Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach relayed the following thought. The Torah commands us, “The children of Yisroel shall guard the Shabbos” (Shemos 31:16). The Torah uses the word “veshamru,” and you shall guard, to convey to us that Jews must ensure that Shabbos is being observed. It is not enough for one to keep Shabbos in his own home; rather, every Yid must do his best to stand guard and ensure that Shabbos is kept by all Jews (Sorascha Shaashuai pg 213; this same veshamru derivative is also written by the Ohr Hachaim in Ki Sisa 31:16).

It was on his last visit to Rav Shach that Rav Yeshayahu Lieberman, menahel of Bais Yaakov Seminary in Yerushalayim, was asked by the rosh yeshiva about many important chinuch matters. The conversation focused both on the monetary state of institutions as well as on their educational state.

After answering some questions and relaying positive developments, the rosh yeshiva turned to Rav Lieberman and stated, “And you are content?” He answered, “Yes.” Rav Shach shook his head and was quiet for a moment before painfully remarking, “Tell me, Reb Yeshayahu, what is the name of the city next to Bnei Brak?” Rav Lieberman thought the rosh yeshiva meant Ramat Gan, but Rav Shach motioned with his hand in the negative and said, “No.” “Perhaps the rosh yeshiva means Petach Tikvah?” asked Rav Lieberman. “No, I mean the big city, the big city,” said the rosh yeshiva.”“Perhaps the rosh yeshiva means Tel Aviv?” asked Rav Lieberman. “Yes,” said Rav Shach, as he continued on with a pained expression.

“Tell me, how many Jews there are shomrei Shabbos?”asked Rav Shach. He then looked at Rav Lieberman and said, “And you are content?”

“What can I do?” asked Rav Lieberman. Rav Shach forcefully answered, “We must do! We must do! And not be content!”

Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (,Divrei Agaddah Parshas Ki Sisa, pg. 189) learns the same lesson as Rav Shach, from the same posuk, albeit from the posuk’s next few words. He writes that the directive of “veshomru bnei Yisroel,” refers to the obligation incumbent upon every Jew to keep Shabbos. The words “laasos es haShabbos,” to make the Shabbos, refer to the obligation we each have to ensure that all other Jews are keeping Shabbos as well.

The Medrash (Bereishis 11:8) states that when Hashem rested on the seventh day, Shabbos came forward and complained that it does not have a “ben zug” as the other days of the week have. Hashem answered that hat Knesses Yisroel will be the ben zug of Shabbos. Rav Elyashiv explains that the covenant between Shabbos and the Jewish people is therefore not a bris for individuals. “Knesses” Yisroel is the ben zug of Shabbos. If not all of Klal Yisroel are keeping Shabbos, then Shabbos is no longer the sign between Hashem and us.

After Shemoneh Esrei on Friday night, Vayechulu is recited out loud (bekol rom) in order to call out to those who don’t know what Shabbos is to let them know that there is a Shabbos and that they must adhere to all of its laws. This is why the Gemara (Shabbos 119b) says that one who recites Vayechulu Friday night is accompanied home by two angels. Rav Elyashiv explains that these two angels convey to the person that he must perform two mitzvos, keep Shabbos and ensure that others keep Shabbos as well.

Rav Elyashiv states that this communal obligation is also alluded to in the words “You must guard my Shabbosos” (Shemos 31:13). This teaches us that one must guard two Shabbosos, his own Shabbos and the Shabbos of all other Jews. If we do so, we will merit, “If we are to guard two Shabbosos properly, we will be redeemed right away” (Shabbos 118).

In becoming shomrei Shabbos in its entirety by doing our best to ensure that all Jews keep Shabbos, we will bring about a more complete Shabbos adherence both for ourselves and for others and bring about the geulah sheleimah b’meheirah.