The Torah introduces the institution of Shabbos in the Fourth Commandment of the Aseres HaDibros, the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments focus on our acceptance of Hashem as supreme Ruler and Creator, forbid us from worshipping other deities, and forbid us from showing Hashem disrespect by taking His Name lightly. Shabbos attests to Hashem being the Creator of the world, for it is a constant reminder that He created for six days and rested on the Seventh Day. When we observe Shabbos, we bear testimony to this fact. Therefore, the commandment of Shabbos should follow in the natural progression after the first three.
There is another aspect of Shabbos that we often overlook, although it is equally significant. The Lecha Dodi hymn, recited Friday night as we welcome the Shabbos, portrays Shabbos as Klal Yisrael’s bride. Indeed, Chazal relate that when Hashem first introduced the Shabbos day into Creation, Shabbos complained bitterly to Hashem, “To every other day of the week You have given a mate: the creation of the First Day was completed and sustained by the creation of the Second Day; the creation of the Third Day by that of the Fourth Day; the creation of the Fifth Day by that of the Sixth Day. But me, the Seventh Day, You have given no companion.” Thereupon, Hashem replied, “I still have one more work of Creation to bring forth – Klal Yisrael, they will be your betrothed (Yisrael yehai ben zugach).”
Thus, when Hashem gave His Torah to Klal Yisrael at Har Sinai, He stated, “Behold, the Shabbos stands here alone and forgotten; remember her and hallow her unto yourselves as a chassan, bridegroom, cherishes and sanctifies his kallah, bride, on the wedding day.” Ever since that august moment, Klal Yisrael has kept the Shabbos day. It has celebrated its eternal betrothal to the Shabbos, as a faithful husband protects, sustains and treasures his beloved wife. This is the manner in which Shabbos should be observed: as a husband cherishes his wife.
Shabbos is Klal Yisrael’s companion for eternity. Without the Jewish People to keep it, Shabbos would have disappeared from mankind. Likewise, were it not for the Shabbos, we would have succumbed to the many miseries and afflictions that have accompanied us throughout our tumultuous history. A wife and companion for life: what more meaningful terms can we use as an analogy for our relationship to Shabbos?
Our observance of Shabbos should be paradigmatic of the harmonious relationship between husband and wife. If this is the case, we may be so bold as to wonder whether those who reject the sanctity of Shabbos, negate its overriding significance to the Jewish People, are reflecting their own misperception of the institution of marriage. Do they understand the meaning of fidelity? We may suggest that the laws regarding the observance and hallowing of Shabbos should serve as a primer for the relationship between husband and wife. After all, the union of Klal Yisrael and Shabbos was the first marriage, since we are Shabbos’ eternal companion. Examining Chazal’s terminology concerning Shabbos and its relationship vis-à-vis Klal Yisrael serves as a powerful tool for understanding the manner in which a husband should view his wife.
Let us go back to the beautiful hymn of Lecha Dodi, which refers to Shabbos as mekor ha’brachah, a source of blessing. When Hashem first instituted Shabbos as a memorial to His Creation, He blessed it with a special message, a unique power. By means of the truth that it symbolizes and communicates to Klal Yisrael, Shabbos is able to train man for his spiritual and moral destiny, as well as to ennoble him, so that he can fulfill that destiny. Shabbos is all that in its being a source of blessing.
A wife can and should be the home’s source of blessing. Quite often, her contribution to the home is not recognized – because it is not appreciated. This may serve as a parallel to Shabbos. The value and significance of Shabbos can be realized only when one appreciates it. This can only occur when one observes the Shabbos – properly – according to Halachah. By delving into the Shabbos, we will raise our level of appreciation, so that it can have a greater effect on our lives. This applies equally to marriage. Sometimes we have to sit back and think: What would life be like under different circumstances? Are we acting properly? Do we appreciate our mate? Do we display our appreciation? Let us each learn from Shabbos how to honor the “other” kallah in our life.