When he was a little boy, Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin questioned his teacher over and over again concerning a Talmudic passage.
The teacher explained once more: "A man was traveling in the desert. He had lost his sense of time and did not know which day of the week it was. When should he observe Shabbat?
The child still couldn't understand. "How could he not know when Shabbat begins? Why didn't he just lift his eyes upward? Then he would see the heavens changing!"
Even as a child, Reb Yisrael saw Shabbat as it really is. It is not just a day of do's and don'ts; it is a day when the spiritual climate of the world changes and accordingly we modify our conduct to adapt to these different spiritual realities.
Shabbat represents the culmination of the creation. As our Sages said: "The world was lacking Shabbat.... What was created after He rested? Tranquility, satisfaction, serenity and calm."
What are these qualities of "tranquility, satisfaction, serenity, and calm?" They represent the ability to sense the spiritual behind the material. To see an entity for more than it appears, to appreciate its spiritual content.
This is the key to "tranquility, satisfaction, serenity and calm." To step above the situation and appreciate the inner truth. To look at a person or an event and sense the G-dly message that he, she or it communicates. This is what G-d endowed the world with on Shabbat, the ability to appreciate the spiritual content of each entity, the truth that lies at its core. This is what distinguishes Shabbat and makes it a day of rest.
For rest is not merely relaxation, the release of tension that comes from a good game of tennis or golf. Rest is something that happens within the soul, a shift of understanding that rejuvenates us. We begin to see the world as it really is. We gain understanding, and that understanding lifts up our hearts.
This approach leads to an all-encompassing appreciation of oneness. For from the standpoint of the G-dliness invested in creation, the entire world is at one with Him.
The physical dimensions of our exis-tence create separation. But on Shabbat, as we focus on the neshama, the soul, the spiritual vitality that pervades existence, the oneness between people - and indeed the oneness that exists throughout creation as a whole - rises to the surface.
Shabbat fuses together the physical and spiritual. Although this is true, it is not outwardly seen, our activities remain physical.
For example, one of the pleasures we are enjoined to partake of on Shabbat is that of enjoyable food. Nevertheless, we don't feel "spiritual" when we're eating. On the contrary, we sense the physical and indeed, we can get carried away with it! And yet, that is one of the observances of Shabbat.
On the afternoon of Shabbat we reach an even higher level. The afternoon service is considered a foretaste of the era of Redemption, and more specifically, the era of the resurrection of the dead, "the day which is all Shabbat and rest for eternity."
In the present gestalt, the world as it exists in its own framework is separate from G-d which precludes complete unity. Only in the Messianic Era will the unity between the spiritual and the material be realized in a complete sense.
If we consider each "day" as a thousand years, at the present time, the year 5762, it's Friday afternoon. You can feel Shabbat in the air. G-d's home, the world, is beginning to anticipate the era of the Redemption; the time when the world will truly be one with G-d and all of creation. Celebrate Shabbat this week and hasten the individual, interpersonal and global unity predicted by our Prophets and promised by G-d.