Parashat Vayakhel: The Satan’s Weekly Visit
In the beginning of Parashat Vayakhel, Moshe conveys to Beneh Yisrael G-d’s command to observe Shabbat, and he specifies the particular prohibition against kindling a flame: "Do not kindle fire in any of your residences on the day of Shabbat" (35:3).
Why would Moshe single out this specific prohibition? Why is only this law mentioned, and not the other thirty-eight categories of activity which are forbidden on Shabbat?
The Rabbis teach us that this verse alludes to the fire of anger. While we are to always strive to avoid anger, this is especially important on Shabbat, and so Moshe warns in this verse that we not "kindle" the "fire" of anger on Shabbat.
Why is anger so dangerous on Shabbat?
The Zohar comments that there is nothing more harmful to a person’s wellbeing than anger. It endangers a person physically, as medical science has conclusively determined. But additionally, the Zohar teaches, anger contaminates the body to such an effect that the person’s sacred soul departs, and is replaced by the impure spirits, negative spiritual energies. For this reason, the Arizal (Rav Yishak Luria, 1534-1572) instructed that one who becomes angry should immerse in a Mikveh, in order to cleanse himself from the impurity of these negative forces. (Indeed, the words "Ka’as" – anger – and "Mikveh" have the same numerical value.) On Shabbat, we are endowed with an additional soul, which enters our beings with the onset of Shabbat. And thus if we become angry on Shabbat, we defile not only our regular soul, but also the extra soul. Therefore, it is especially important to avoid anger on Shabbat.
There is also an additional reason why we need to make a special effort to avoid anger on Shabbat – and, specifically, on Friday afternoon, as we prepare for Shabbat.
Whenever we prepare to do something great, the Satan mobilizes and endeavors to sabotage the undertaking. This is one reason given for the custom to break a glass at a wedding ceremony. Knowing that the Satan will try to disrupt this sacred, precious moment, we offer the Satan a "bribe," as it were, breaking an expensive glass, as though telling the Satan, "Here, something went wrong, something valuable was broken. You got what you wanted, so now leave us alone." This true of Shabbat, as well. The Hid"a (Rav Haim Yosef Azulai, 1724-1806) writes that there is a special Yeser Ha’ra (evil inclination) that sets in during the final few hours before Shabbat on Friday afternoon. Knowing the immense spiritual benefits of Shabbat, the Satan slyly steps in to interfere on Friday afternoon in order to create tension and strife in the home.
I, and many others, can personally attest to this unwelcome phenomenon. I have noticed over the years that it is almost always on Friday afternoon, as I am rushing to get dressed for Shabbat, that buttons fall off my shirts. Electricians can attest that more ovens break in Jewish homes on Friday than on any other day of the week. Plumbers will tell you that they get more calls about leaks and clogs on Friday than at any other time. This is very real, and it is no coincidence. This is the Satan trying to arouse anger and tension in the home to prevent us from receiving the precious spiritual blessings that Shabbat offers us.
Let us commit ourselves to foil the Satan’s weekly scheme by being especially patient and calm on Ereb Shabbat, by avoiding anger even when we feel naturally inclined to become angry. By recognizing the Satan’s weekly visit for what it is, and appreciating the immense spiritual value that this visit is trying to take away from us, we can ensure to maintain our composure amid the pressures of Friday afternoon, so we can then receive the great benefits of Shabbat and bring Hashem’s presence into our homes.