Two of the major parts of Judaism are the ethical and the ritual.
We can all understand the importance of the ethical laws of Judaism. None of us have any difficulty comprehending why the Torah tells us not to kill and steal, or why we must not shame or hurt another person.
On the other hand, Judaism contains many ritual laws, rules that strengthen man’s relationship with G-d. These include the holidays, the Kosher dietary laws, and such things as Tallit, Tefillin and the Mezuzah. It is, in large part, these rituals that separate Judaism from all other ethical systems.
Among the many rituals of Judaism, we find one prime ritual that stands above the rest- that is Shabbat.
More than Rosh HaShanah, more than Yom Kippur, more than keeping Kosher or attending services, the Sabbath is the one ritual that marks the Jew.
It is the only ritual mentioned in the Ten Commandments. It is also repeated more often in the Torah than any other commandment.
Conversely, the Torah considers violating the Sabbath as a most major violation of Judaism’s most fundamental tenets.
But why? What is so special about the Sabbath? Why does it merit a place in the Ten Commandments?
The Sabbath is the most important institution of Judaism. It is the primary ritual, the very touchstone of our faith.
Our great prophets hardly ever mentioned any ritual. Their task was to admonish Israel with regard to faith and morality. But still, they placed a great emphasis on the Sabbath.
Throughout the Talmud, the Midrash, and the other great classical Jewish writings, we find that the Sabbath has a most central place in Jewish thought.
Classical Judaism does not recognize denominational divisions but rather distinguished people based on their observance of the Sabbath.
There is absolutely no question that the Sabbath plays a most central role in Judaism. But we are still left with our original questions.
How does the Shabbos create such an atmosphere? Why is it so important?