A Tale of Two Tables
March 31, 2022
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine your family’s Shabbos table. Images of a pure white tablecloth and a gleaming silver becher likely come to mind. The scent of delicious challahs wafts through the air as the sweet ta’am of Gan Eden fills your home.
The kedushah that radiates from our homes every Shabbos is what defines our mikdash me’at as the most beautiful edifice for the Shechinah to dwell in each week. And then there is the nachas of the children’s shining faces bright with the anticipation of telling over their divrei Torah and receiving their parents’ love and approval.
For most of us, the Shabbos table is truly the highlight of the week.
But in too many homes all over town, the scene is very different. Yes, the table is set beautifully, and all the sights and smells seem just right, but there is gaping void. It is as if a glaring hole has been burned right through the idyllic picture of these families’ Shabbos table. Yanky’s (or Chani’s) empty seat serves as a stark reminder of the emptiness that they feel in their aching hearts.
Just minutes earlier, Mommy’s tears flowed unchecked as she begged and beseeched Hashem, “V’zakeini… When will I be zocheh to see true Yiddishe nachas from my struggling child?” Each week they hope against all hope that maybe this week, Yanky will show up to join them at the seudah. But Yanky is far away, hanging out with his friends and engaged in what can only be described as the antithesis of shemiras Shabbos R”l.
The truth is, although Yanky’s voice may be filled with empty laughter, the hollow ring of these sounds cannot mask the void that he fills inside. You see, Yanky, too, wishes to feel the kedushah of Shabbos. He feels no menuchah. Deep inside, he longs for those beautiful moments of m’ein Olam Haba that he experienced just a short time ago. But his neshamah is blocked, his heart is clouded over with pain and confusion, and he yearns for but knows of no pathway back.
Meanwhile, up in shamayim, no doubt, kav’yachol Hashem’s Shabbos is sorely lacking. Chazal tell us that we cannot fathom the tza’ar of the Shechinah as it yearns for Its long-lost children.
Yet, most of us sit down to partake of our delicious seudah blissfully unaware of the pain flowing all around us.
For the honor of the king
Rav Mechel Handelsman related the poignant tale of a king who invited his two distant-living sons to visit him on the occasion of a family wedding. The king wrote to his older son, “Please spare no expense to clothe your family in a way that is befitting my honor, and I will reimburse you for your expenses. Please also do the same for your younger brother.”
The older son borrowed a huge sum of money and purchased stunning gowns and elegant suits for his family. He purchased a royal carriage to bring his family to the wedding.
Just one day before departing for the wedding, he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten all about his younger brother. He ran to his brother’s home and told him about the fast-approaching wedding. The younger brother had no time to purchase anything and immediately set off with his family in a simple wagon.
A week later, the older brother and his family rolled into the capital amid much fanfare. The bystanders oohed and aahed at the magnificent appearance of the older brother’s family. A day or two later, the dusty and disheveled family of the younger brother slipped into the capital virtually unnoticed.
After a beautiful week of celebrating, the time came for the older brother to take leave of his father, and he presented the king with an itemized bill of the small fortune he had spent to attire his family.
When the king saw the bill, he flew into a rage. “How dare you?” he exclaimed.
The older son was terribly confused. “I don’t understand,” he stammered. “Did you not instruct me to spare no expense to dress my family for the honor of the king?
“That is exactly the point!” responded the king. “I told you to dress your family in my honor. Had you been truly concerned with my honor, you wouldn’t have allowed your brother to come to the wedding in such disgrace. You cared only about your own pride and ego but not a drop about my honor. Thus, I will not reimburse you even one penny!”
The nimshal, says R’ Handelsman, is obvious. All week long, we scurry from store to store, from errand to errand, to ensure the most exquisite Shabbos table, all of course for the honor of Shabbos Kodesh. But is this truly so? Are we really concerned for the kavod of Shabbos Hamalkah?
If we really care about the honor of this holy day, how can we just turn our heads and look away with a mere sigh when we witness the tragic desecration of Shabbos in our own ihr haTorah? How can we ignore the pain of our brothers and sisters who sit at their empty tables? How can we ignore the tremendous tza’ar of the Shechinah, which painfully awaits the return of its precious lost neshamos?
The Lakewood Shabbos Project
Last year, Rav Dovid Schustal and the Skulener Rebbe established the Lakewood Shabbos Project to uphold, enhance, and safeguard the kedushah of Shabbos in our community and to help bring these precious neshamos back home to Shabbos.
The Rosh Yeshivah and the Rebbe are personally beseeching each and every member of our kehillah to become a shutaf with Shabbos and undertake to become a weekly partner with the Ribono Shel Olam.
Let’s all show Hashem that we truly care about His Shabbos and not just about our own Shabbos table. Lets show the Ribono Shel Olam that we care about the tza’ar of the Shechinah and feel the pain of our brothers and sisters. In the amazing zechus of each one of us thinking about what we can bring to Hashem’s Shabbos table, may we all merit true Yiddishe nachas from all our children and grandchildren and may we be zocheh b’karov to the yom shekulo Shabbos!
Donations can be sent using the pledge card and the envelope accompanying the Voice. Checks can be made out to “Shabbos” and are tax-deductible. Additionally, you can donate 24 hours via the donation hotline at 848-245-1020 or online at https://secure.cardknox.com/lakewoodshabbosproject. For more information about the Lakewood Shabbos Project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, a Shabbos They Want to Take Part In!
It’s not easy to make Shabbos appealing to those who have, for whatever reason, been turned off from participating in this heilige experience after having been raised with it from birth. Yet, the seasoned askanim behind the Shabbos Project have arranged a program that has been doing just that with great success.
Whether in town at a home or in an out-of-town hotel, the Shabbatons, which are the highlight of the program, are exciting. The food is great. The singing is great. The ruach is exhilarating. Love and warmth are in the air. Participants spend time with their friends, mentors, and hosts—all people that they enjoy being around.
“For whatever reason, these teens are not drawn to participate in Shabbos in their home or other regular surroundings,” explains one askan that is involved with the project. “But when you create for them an entirely separate and suitable program, they’re all-in.”
The Shabbatons are uplifting and positive. The teens willingly hand in their gadgets and other muktzeh items at the door. They show up with smiles to every event on the schedule. Everyone there and everything there is there for them.
In addition to the great food, singing, and other suitable activities, there are several guest speakers that deliver workshops on topics that the teens feel are relevant to their lives—with any questions welcome, of course.
Each Shabbaton has produced clear results b’siyata d’Shmaya, Shabbos after Shabbos, neshamah after neshamah.
In the last winter alone, the Lakewood Shabbos Program has sponsored nearly 10 Shabbatons for teens in our community who need chizuk in the area of shemiras Shabbos. Baruch Hashem, the results are very heartening, and some of last year’s participants are now being shomer Shabbos. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, the Shabbatons can only be arranged on a limited basis.
Additionally, the Lakewood Shabbos Project sponsors weekly oneg Shabbos programs for both winter Friday nights and long summer Shabbos afternoons. Another program enables the boys to spend an uplifting Shabbos each week at the home of a different host together with their madrichim. Mentors have drawn a lot of chizuk from a group of boys who were mekabel to keep Shabbos through most of the winter.
The cost of running these programs is not cheap, with the price of sponsoring a large hotel Shabbaton around $25,000! However, the Rosh Yeshivah and the Rebbe passionately feel that no price tag can be placed on shemiras Shabbos; the value of just one Shabbos for one Yid is inestimable. All the more so is the value of a program through which many participants have already undertaken solid kabbalos to keep some aspects, or even all of, Shabbos for the long term.