What do Parents and Shabbat Have in Common with the Beit Hamikdash?

hero image
11 Mar 2009

Based on a commentary in the new Haggadah, The Seder Night: An Exalted Evening, with the commentary of “the Rav”, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik . Compiled by Rabbi Simon Posner.

Sometimes the Torah creates connections and equations that seem puzzling when taken at face value but which contain a profound message. One example of this phenomenon is the double equation that we find in Sefer Vayikra, first between parents and Shabbat, and then between Shabbat and the Beit Hamikdash. The Torah equates parents and Shabbat and tells us, “Each person shall fear his mother and father and shall keep My Sabbaths” (Vayikra 19:3). We find another equation between observance of Shabbat and the reverence we must feel when we enter the Beit Hamikdash, “You shall keep My Sabbaths and revere My sanctuary” (Vayikra 19:30). The Torah seems to be giving us a message that there is a unifying concept or idea shared by Shabbat, parents and the Beit Hamikdash.

In his commentary on the phrase from Dayenu, Ilu natan lanu et haShabbat, the Rav explains that the Almighty, in all His infinite expansiveness, voluntarily limits and contracts Himself to reside in the finite world, and finds repose in the Beit Hamikdash. At times, however, instead of asking for a physical sanctuary built of wood and stone, gold and silver, the Holy One chooses a human being in which to concentrate His essence. He resides in a mother and father, in the recesses of their personality. The parent is the dwelling place for God, and that is why the Torah requires unqualified respect for parents.

The Rav continues with this line of thought and points out that the same concept is true for Shabbat. On yom tov, each Jew is commanded to come close to the Shechinah by leaving his home and traveling to Jerusalem. This is the mitzvah of aliyah l’regel. Shabbat, however, is not like yom tov. On Shabbat, the Jew is not commanded to leave his home and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to search for the Shechinah. There is no need to do so. On Shabbat, the Shechinah comes to us and knocks on our door. All we have to do is let her enter. The same Shechinah that accompanies the elderly, a father and a mother accompanies a Jew on Shabbat. We revere the Beit Hamikdash because that is where God found a place to reside. So too of Shabbat and parents.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.