Shabbos bears testimony that Hashem created Heaven and earth. Hashem imbued this day with unique spiritual character, distinguishing it from the other six days of the week, elevating it to a higher level of sanctity. Thus, on Shabbos when the Bais HaMikdash was extant, we could offer a Korban Mussaf, Additional Offering, similar to what is offered on Festivals and holy days. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that when we bring an offering, we fix our thoughts on the significance of the day and its broad degree of sanctity. Man is impacted by his actions. Thus, Hashem commanded us to perform specific actions for the sake of the day, which, in turn, will imbue us with its sacredness. In short, a korban reminds us that this day – i.e. Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, Yomim Tovim – is spiritually unique.
Horav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, (Mitzvos B’Simchah) relates an inspiring d’rash, homiletic exposition, from Horav Yaakov Yosef Herman, zl, with regard to Shabbos. In the Hoshanos recited on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Succos, we laud Klal Yisrael for their devotion to Shabbos Kodesh. We recite a number of accolades, one of which at first appears ambiguous and somewhat less than laudatory: Yosheves u’mamtenes ad k’los ha’Shabbos; “Who sit patiently on, before the end of Shabbos.” At first glance, this phrase implies that we are waiting for Shabbos to end, sort of looking at our watch every moment to see if we can perform a weekday activity. Rav Herman gave meaning to this verse via an incident that occurred personally concerning him.
Rav Herman’s daughter lay critically ill in the hospital. It was Erev Shabbos, and her parents had to make the painful decision: to leave her alone in the hospital for Shabbos, or stay with her and ignore the many guests that lined up by their door for the Shabbos meals. These were people who had nowhere to go, nothing to eat. These were people whose spiritual uplift for the entire week was derived from their Shabbos with the Hermans. Rav Herman decided that he must attend to the needs of these people. Hashem Yisborach would attend to his daughter. The mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, welcoming guests to his home, easing the travail of their lives, would stand to serve as a z’chus, merit, for his daughter.
It happened that another patient with the last name of Herman was at the hospital. Over the course of Shabbos this patient passed away. According to hospital regulations, a letter was supposed to have immediately been sent to the family of the deceased. By some quirk, a secretary erred and instead sent the death notification to the wrong Herman family. She sent the letter to Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman. When the telegram arrived on Shabbos, the righteous Hermans refused to accept it. It was Shabbos; they would not disrupt the kedushas, sanctity, and serenity of Shabbos. They would wait it out. The telegram was forwarded instead to their sister-in-law who read it and went to speak to the Hermans. They refused to listen to anything that was not Shabbos-related.
On Motzoei Shabbos, another telegram arrived, apologizing profusely for the error. Indeed, they were pleased to inform the Hermans that their daughter’s condition had improved, and she was expected to be released in a couple of days. When Rav Herman was informed of the mix-up in telegrams, he realized p’shat, the explanation of the verse in Hoshanos. The Jew is lauded for patiently waiting until the conclusion of Shabbos before addressing any non-Shabbos related issues. He is in no rush. The weekday can wait. Now, it is Shabbos. Today, he celebrates with Hashem.
Horav Zilberstein concludes with an incident that occurred concerning the saintly Rabbi Klonimus, father-in-law of the Maharshal, who lived at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Jewish community constantly suffered from the brutal anti-Semites and their blood libels. The Christians would claim that the Jews killed Christian children, so that they could use their blood to mix into the matzah batter. While this claim was preposterous, the sadistic ruffians that comprised the peasant populace at the time did not require much more to agitate them sufficiently to create a pogrom against the Jews. During those dark times, the Jews were compelled to live surrounded and hounded by such hatred. Therefore, when a Christian child was found murdered on Shabbos, fingers were immediately pointed at the Jewish community. The Christian population was poised to obliterate the entire Jewish populace. Rabbi Klonimus immediately wrote various sheimos, Kabbalistic names and incantations, on a piece of paper and placed them by the murdered child’s body. Then, to the shock and awe of both the Christian and Jewish communities, the child arose and revealed who had murdered him. He then fell back, dead. The Jewish community was spared.
Everyone was overjoyed, except Rabbi Klonimus, who, while happy to have saved the community, was chagrined that he had desecrated Shabbos. Veritably, it was a matter of pikuach nefesh, to save Jewish lives, but he was troubled that his “slate” felt imperfect. Thus, prior to returning his holy soul to its Source, Rabbi Klonimus instructed that for the next one hundred years whoever passed his grave should throw one stone on it. (The punishment for Shabbos desecration is stoning.) He did what he had to do, but he was still troubled. After all, Shabbos is special.