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The Reward for Observing and Enjoying Shabbat; Spending Money for the Honor of Shabbat

The Tur (seminal Halachic work by Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher, Spain, 1270-1340), in the beginning of the Laws of Shabbat (Orah Haim 242; listen to audio recording for precise citation), cites a number of passages from the Talmud that underscore the importance of observing and enjoying Shabbat:

1) One who observes Shabbat as a day of enjoyment and delight is rewarded with a "portion without boundaries," meaning, unlimited blessings. Just as he spent money freely for the purpose of honoring Shabbat, so is he rewarded with unlimited blessing.

2) A person who properly observes Shabbat is spared subjugation and oppression by foreign governments. Since he has joyfully accepted upon himself God's kingship through the careful observance of Shabbat, he will not have to endure subjugation to any other authority.

3) Whoever observes Shabbat as a day of enjoyment and delight is granted all the wishes of his heart. Just as he enjoyed the Shabbat, so will God grant him what he needs to always experience joy and contentment.

4) Whoever properly observes Shabbat earns atonement for his misdeeds, even if he worshipped foreign gods.

5) Had Bene Yisrael properly observed their first Shabbat in the wilderness, no foreign nation would have ever been able to exert any control over them. As we read in the Book of Shemot (16:27), some members of Bene Yisrael left the camp on that Shabbat to collect manna, in violation of Shabbat. The Talmud teaches that had the entire nation observed the Shabbat laws, the Jewish people would have never suffered persecution at the hands of other peoples. The Mahari Abuhav (14th century), cited by the Bet Yosef (commentary to the Tur by Maran, author of the Shulhan Aruch), explains that the incident of Bene Yisrael's violation of Shabbat resulted in the attack by Amalek (Shemot 17:8). The Sages teach that Amalek's offensive shattered the aura of Bene Yisrael's invincibility and thus allowed for subsequent aggression against the Jewish people. Hence, if Bene Yisrael had observed that first Shabbat, they would have forever more been protected from enemy attack.

6) If the entirety of the Jewish people properly observes two Shabbat, the nation would immediately earn redemption.

The Tur proceeds to note a difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov with regard to the obligation of "Oneg" – enjoyment. Whereas regarding Yom Tov the Talmud cites different views as to whether it should be spent in prayer and Torah study or as a day of delight and enjoyment, when it comes to Shabbat all views require one to spend some time enjoying fine food and drink, and to wear fine clothing. The Tur also cites the Gemara's comment that the wealthy Jews of Babylonia preserved their wealth in the merit of their efforts in honoring the day of Shabbat.

Additionally, the Tur emphasizes that when it comes to honoring Shabbat, one must not withhold funds out of concern for his livelihood. The Talmud states that when God assigns a person's livelihood on Rosh Hashanah for the coming year, his Shabbat and Yom Tov expenses are not taken into account. Meaning, whatever money one spends towards the honor and celebration of Shabbat and Yom Tov will be repaid by the Almighty; these funds are not deducted from the sum allocated for that person at the beginning of the year. Therefore, one should purchase the finest delicacies and clothing for Shabbat and Yom Tov, and trust that these funds will be repaid to him in full.

Nevertheless, as important as Halacha views spending money for the honor of Shabbat, these expenditures do not take precedence over one's financial obligations to other people. The Bei'ur Halacha (commentary by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, the "Hafetz Haim," 1839-1933) comments that if somebody owes salary to his employee, he may not delay payment in order to allocate funds for his Shabbat expenses. Even though one is generally urged to spend money to honor Shabbat, this must not come at the expense of his obligations to his employee, unless the employee consents to receiving his salary later. The Bei'ur Halacha bases this ruling on the fact that paying employees on time constitutes a Torah obligation, as indicated by a verse in the Book of Devarim (24:15): "You shall give him his payment on that day." Honoring the Shabbat, by contrast, is generally assumed to apply on the level of "Divre Kabbala" – the words of the prophets. Furthermore, even if one would argue that honoring Shabbat also applies on the level of Torah obligation, it would still not override the obligation of paying employees' wages. As the Bei'ur Halacha notes, paying wages entails not only a Misvat Ase (an affirmative command), but also a Lo Ta'aseh – a Torah prohibition – as the verse continues, "and do not let the sun set [without paying the worker]." Hence, the obligation of honoring Shabbat cannot override paying wages, which constitutes both an obligation and a prohibition.

Summary: Halacha affords great importance to both the meticulous observance of Shabbat, as well as enjoying and honoring Shabbat through fine delicacies and clothing. One should not withhold funds when it comes to purchasing foods and the like for Shabbat, as God guarantees to repay all money spent for this important purpose. Nevertheless, one may not withhold employees' wages in order to allocate funds for honoring Shabbat.