Dealing with Adversity-Shovavim Lessons: The Blessings of Shabbos

Several weeks ago, we cited the letter written by Hagaon Harav Moshe Shternbuch, shlita, before the Yamim Tovim in which he warned of disastrous events that could befall Klal Yisrael in the coming year. Unfortunately, it did not take much time for his prediction to come true with the atrocities in Eretz Yisrael on Shabbos/Simchas Torah and the ensuing war and the taking of hostages.

In the letter, Rav Sternbuch noted the imperative for teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah. 

With that in mind, we note that Klal Yisrael has entered the Shovavim period of teshuvah and introspection that takes place during the six weeks when we read the parshiyos of Shemos through Mishpatim. (Shovavim is an acrostic of the names of the parshiyos – Shemos, Va’eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yisro and Mishpatim.) In a leap year such as this one, this annual period of teshuvah extends for an additional two weeks through Parashas Terumah and Parashas Tetzaveh and it is termed Shovavim TaT.

These weeks are one of teshuvah of indiscretions of a personal nature.  The acronym Shovavim also derives from sefer Yirmiyahu 3: 14 and 22 where the Navi tells Klal Yisrael,  “Shuvu, banim, shovavim – Return, o wayward sons, and i will heal your waywardness (passuk 22).

There are various customs observed by some communities – especially in the Sefardic and Chassidic. Some are accustomed to fast on Mondays and Thursdays during this time while others recite special Selichos and recite the entire sefer Tehillim b’tzibbur.. 

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch cites the sefer Yesod Yosef which offers a number of tikkunim appropriate in these weeks as part of the teshuvah process. One of them is to strengthen one’s shemiras Shabbos.

There is a second reason to upgrade one’s observance of Shabbos at this time. Since the first day of Rosh Hashanah this year fell on Shabbos, the shofar was not blown. The understanding is that when that happens Shabbos steps in to shield us rather than shofar. Therefore, many Rabbanim have instructed that this year it is imperative to set aside more time to learn Hilchos Shabbos and kehillos have introduced opportunities to do so.

The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos (188-119) relates several ways in which Shabbos benefits us. “Whoever is careful with the observance of Shabbos, even if he worships idols will be forgiven for all his sins.”

Rabi Yosi says: “About anyone who delights in the Shabbos, Hashem gives him a boundless portion, as it says, “you shall be granted pleasure with Hashem … and I will provide you with the heritage of Yaakov.” The Nesivos Shalom explains that Yaakov rather than Avraham or Yitzchak are mentioned because Yaakov had the ability to elevate the physical and utilize it in avodas Hashem. He not only served Hashem within the realm of Torah and mitzvos – in a limited sense – but uplifted even the mundane for service of Hashem. By expanding the bounds of kedushah one merits a “heritage without boundaries.”

Another Gemara that hints to how Shabbos benefits us is “Whoever delights in the Shabbos is granted his heart’s desires.”

Understandably, these statements of Chazal represent a point of departure; the blessings of Shabbos go far beyond what is understood on the surface.

Harav Nissan Kaplan, shlita, has impacted thousands of talmidim over the years. Many years ago, a former talmid living in the United States was facing a double crisis. His daughter had been diagnosed with an untreatable serious medical condition. Secondly, his business had suffered a major setup and he was losing tremendous sums of money. He requested his Rebbi to daven for him.

Rav Kaplan went to the Kosel where he invested tremendous energy in tefillah on behalf of this talmid. On the way home on the bus, Rav Kaplan put his head down to try to get some needed rest. The man sitting next to him began to relate a story. An individual beset by serious illness was told by his Rav that when Chazal say that when reciting Kiddush on Leil Shabbos one becomes a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world. He told the choleh to have this intention in mind and he had a complete refuah. In a second story a man in danger of losing all of his money was advised to accept upon himself not to discuss business on Shabbos. Afterwards his monetary woes stopped.

Rav Kaplan noted the hashgachah of hearing these two stories precisely related to his talmid’s situation. He passed along to him the advice. A few days later the talmid called back to say he did so. His financial problems ceased and the doctor informed him that his findings had been in error.

Rav Shimshon Pincus, zt”l, explains that when we enter Shabbos it is akin to experiencing the Shechinah in the Beis Hamikdash. Let us utilize the opportunity of Shovavim to bask in the radiance of Hashem’s proximity by uplifting our Shabbos. We refine ourselves in the process and gain from the side benefits as well.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!