The Zohar HaKadosh (Parashas Korach) writes: “The Shechinah, Divine Presence, did not move away from Klal Yisrael on Shabbos and Yamim Tovim – even on Shabbosos of chol, weekday.” Obviously, the term Shabbosos d’chol, weekday Shabbos, or Shabbos weekday is fraught with ambiguity. Shabbos and chol are incongruous to one another. How do they weave together to create a Shabbos of weekday? Each in his own inimitable manner, the commentators address this Zohar. In U’Masuk Haor, Horav Shlomo Levenstein, Shlita, cites a number of expositions. I have selected a few that offer food for thought.
The Pri Megadim (Kuntros Mattan Secharan shel Mitzvos) posits that Chazal are addressing Tosfos Shabbos, the supplemental minutes that we add either preceding or at the end of Shabbos. Hashem considers this Shabbos a supplementary sanctification of chol, weekday, and He graces it with His Divine Presence.
Likutei Tzvi cites the divergent attitudes of Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel concerning their preparations for Shabbos. The Talmud (Beitzah 16a) says that the proponents of Bais Hillel waited until Erev Shabbos, relying on Hashem to provide them with the finest and best foods l’kavod, in honor of, Shabbos. The proponents of Bais Shammai, however, spent the entire week preparing for Shabbos. Whenever they came upon a delectable food, they would purchase it and set it aside for Shabbos. If, later on during the week, they chanced upon something better, they would sell the first item and purchase the second. Thus, their entire week was infused with a Shabbos-like atmosphere. This epitomizes preparation for a mitzvah in a manner such that the hachanah becomes part of the mitzvah.
Furthermore, explains Likutei Tzvi, one who lives in such abject poverty that he does not have the funds necessary to purchase tzarchei Shabbos, his Shabbos needs, and has no incoming money with which to repay a loan – he should do without the Shabbos foods and not borrow money which he is unable to pay back. (This should be true for all other borrowing purposes.) Such a person, who is spending his Shabbos without the positive accouterments to enhance the sacred day, might think that the Shechinah does not repose over his Shabbos celebration; he is wrong. It may be a Shabbos shel chol, a Shabbos that appears like a weekday, but, in Hashem’s eyes, it is not so.
Last, Likutei Tzvi suggests that the Zohar is addressing those Jews who are coerced not to observe Shabbos to its fullest. For example, soldiers in the Czar’s army were forced to profane Shabbos kodesh, kashrus and other Jewish precepts. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, said that if they absolutely must consume non-kosher food (such as meat), they should not suck the bones. In other words, eat only what is necessary for survival. Likewise, on Shabbos, when one is required to do something as a soldier, he has no alternative but to do it. This does not, however, constitute a dispensation to disregard the holy Shabbos. Thus, smoking and anything that is not vital to living (as a soldier) is still prohibited. This, too, is a form of Shabbos shel chol.
Nachalas Tzvi quotes the Zohar Hakadosh that likens talmidei chachamim, Torah scholars, to Shabbos, in that their demeanors during the week are similar to the manner in which they act on Shabbos. They live their lives with a greater element of kedushah, sanctity. Thus, they model Shabbos shel chol.
Rav Levenstein cites the Tzlach in his drashos (37) who explains the well-known Chazal that teach us that when Klal Yisrael properly observes two Shabbosos, we will be redeemed by Moshiach Tziddkeinu. The accepted interpretation is that Chazal refer to two Shabbosos. The Tzlach suggests that the first Shabbos is Shabbos Bereishis, the seventh day of the week, which we are enjoined to observe. The second Shabbos (as explained earlier) refers to the respect we must accord to the talmid chacham, who is likened to Shabbos. Thus, an individual who disrespects a talmid chacham – even if he simply speaks to him in the same manner in which one speaks to a common person — is considered an apikores, heretic. It is as if he apostatized himself and worshipped an idol. One who is mechallel Shabbos, knowingly profanes Shabbos, is considered a kofer, one who denies Hashem. A talmid chacham is parallel to Shabbos. I believe the reader can “do the math.” No more need be said.
Perhaps we might suggest an innovative approach to Shabbos shel chol, along the lines of the Likutei Tzvi. Shabbos shel chol refers to the baal teshuvah, the penitent, who is slowly making his way back, returning to a life of faith. He is required to take baby steps. It is difficult for one who has lived without the sanctity of Shabbos as a vital part of his life to pick himself up and suddenly commence a life of Shabbos observance. Likewise, one who was there and — for one reason or another (we do not and should not judge) — left the fold, returns slowly. It does not happen overnight;