Parashat Emor: The Sanctity of Shabbat
The Torah in Parashat Emor discusses the Moadim – the holidays which we observe over the course of the year – and it begins with the most frequent "holiday" which we observe – Shabbat. After reiterating the prohibition against performing Melacha (forbidden activity) on Shabbat, the Torah writes, "Shabbat Hi L’Hashem Be’chol Moshebotechem" – "It is Shabbat for G-d, in all your residences" (23:3).
Why does the Torah emphasize that Shabbat must be observed "in all your residences"? Would anyone have mistakenly assumed that the obligations and restrictions of Shabbat apply in some places but not in others? Would there be any reason to think that these laws depend on one’s location?
The Hid"a (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806) explained that this emphasis is needed to dispel the misconception that the special Kedusha of Shabbat is present only in the synagogue. Unfortunately, there are those who attend synagogue services on Shabbat, listen to the Rabbi’s speech, and perhaps even attend a class, but at home they treat Shabbat like an ordinary weekday. They mistakenly assume that Shabbat revolves solely around the synagogue, as it is only there where we experience the special sanctity of Shabbat. The Torah therefore emphasizes that Shabbat is to be observed as a sacred day "Be’chol Moshebotechem," wherever a person is, and not only in the synagogue.
The sanctity of Shabbat fills our homes, and thus requires us to conduct ourselves and run our households differently on Shabbat. This sanctity must affect the way we speak, the nature of our Shabbat meals, and the pursuits we engage in on Shabbat. Shabbat is a time to direct our focus toward spiritual matters, not a time to catch up on our newspaper reading. Shabbat affects us "Be’chol Moshebotechem," wherever we are, including our homes, thus requiring us to elevate our conduct to a higher standard.