We are discussing the deep significance of the After-Shabbat Meal. Before we continue, let’s review what we learned last week.
* Yaakov escaped Esav’s wrath after taking the blessings. On the way to his cousins’ house, he slept in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), on Har Hamoriah- the mountain on which Avraham had brought Yitzchak to be sacrificed.
* After prophetically dreaming of his future nation’s destiny, Yaakov recognized the holiness of the place, renaming it “Beit El”; “Luz” had been the city’s original name.
*Rabbenu Bechaye suggests that just as the luz bone is vital to the body* and will be the ‘building block’ for its revival after death, so is Yerushalayim, where all of creation began, the place from which the revival of the dead will begin at the End of Days.
* The luz bone is indestructible- and so remains after the body decomposes- because it is the only body part that does not take nutrition from a person’s eating; as such, it is not harmed by normal physical limitations.
*This bone actually does gain from Melava Malkah, the meal we eat as we ‘accompany the Shabbat Queen’. Therefore, we can fortify our luz by doing this special Mitzvah.
We still don’t know the inherent connection between Melavah Malkah, the luz bone, and revival of the dead. We also need to understand the deeper significance of Yerushalayim being linked to this idea.
The Elyah Rabbah teaches us something amazing. We know that people were originally going to live forever, except that Adam Harishon’s sin brought death to the world. Being that Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge on the day he was created, Friday, the luz bone did not gain from the sinful eating- as it only derives nutrition from the post-Shabbat meal. This, explains the Elyah Rabbah, is why the luz bone is unaffected by death; it was never sentenced to die after Adam’s sin, because it hadn’t partaken in the eating!
Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff says that Melavah Malkah and the luz are similar in that both are expressions of clinging to something special- and of belief in the good that awaits us. Eating a Melavah Malkah shows that we want to hang on to the spirituality of Shabbat, and that we want to take its special holiness with us as we move into the mundane week. So too does the luz cling to life, awaiting a new and improved existence in the World to Come.
This explanation fortifies the words of the great ‘Yaavetz’, Rabbi Yaakov of Emden. In a lengthy and fundamental analysis of the luz, he asserts that this bone straddles this world and the next world. It doesn’t need to take nutrition, yet still does so once a week. And when is that? After a full day of eating, at a point when we really eat only for the sake of the Mitzvah of accompanying the Shabbat Queen. So the luz does take strength from a meal- but only one whose essence is spiritual, without material motivation! This bone bides it time, attaching to a sliver of spirituality in a mundane world. It sees the glimmer of light in a world that is still dark.
Based on this insight, perhaps we can start to understand the role of the post-Shabbat meal in the existence of the luz. Although Adam and Chavah sinned on Friday, Hashem allowed them to remain in Gan Eden for Shabbat, only banishing them after the holy day had ended. Now sentenced to exile, facing the cold reality of a world they had just damaged, Adam and Chavah-and Mankind- were charged with bringing light to a world gone dark, until the ‘Hidden Light’ would be restored in the World to Come.
Commentators teach that Yaakov Avinu’s difficult trek- beginning with his escape from Esav and ending much later with his reunion with Yosef in Egypt- symbolized the harsh exiles that his descendants would endure. Yaakov lived in total purity yet was still delegitimized by the wicked Esav and Lavan. He was completely spiritual, but had to experience very painful and mundane tests over the course of decades. And it was he, the ‘choice among the Avot’, who succeeded in building a wholly righteous family that would become ‘B’nei Israel’. It was Yaakov who would envision the ultimate end of exile (‘He wanted to reveal the end…’- Rashi to Vayechi, from Midrash) despite the darkness of Egypt and the millennia ahead. Yaakov Avinu, perhaps more than anyone, rectified Adam’s sin, undergoing suffering and also bringing pure life to the world. This sheds light on a famous- yet still stunning- teaching:
Yaakov Avinu did not die.
-Gemara Ta’anit 5b
The ‘Rif’ (Rav Alfas, great medieval Rabbi) explains that because Yaakov was the only one of our forefathers to have only righteous children, he can be said to still be alive, as his holy legacy remains and so embodies him.
We return to Rabbi Lieff’s words. Yerushalayim, center of the universe and the seat of holiness, was destroyed and still has not been redeemed. Despite the darkness that may seem to engulf it, Yerushalayim will one day be the very place from which salvation will grow.
Even now, with all its suffering, Yerushalayim is the conduit for holiness in our world, mirroring the life and vitality of Yaakov Avinu:
…For from Zion Torah will go out, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim.
From Yeshayah, 2:3
In fact, the great Shela Hakadosh provides us with a truly unbelievable revelation: Yerushalayim has its own luz bone. Just as the body is rebuilt with its one remaining bone, so will Yerushalayim be rebuilt from the last remaining piece of the Beit Hamikdash… the Kotel Hama’aravi, the Western Wall!
A simply amazing thought- and one that ties perfectly into our theme.
So Yaakov Avinu and Yerushalayim share the same destiny as the luz bone, and all cling faithfully to the light that they alone have the strength to see. The Melava Malka reminds us to cling to spirituality even in the mundane week- and in the dark exile. We strive, we grow- and we work as hard as we can to bring Light to the world once more. From the holiness of the Shabbat that Adam was permitted to experience with all his body, we move to a world sustained by the single bone that knows no physicality. In the merit of our sustained belief and service, may we soon see the World to Come- or, as it is otherwise known:
A Day that is entirely Shabbat, a Day that is entirely long- a Day on which the righteous sit and derive pleasure from the Shechina…
-Birkat Hamazon, Pesach
Have a great Shabbat- tonight, and in the near future!
Elli Schwarcz is an alumnus of the Toras Moshe, Ner Israel, and Carteret Yeshivos, and has been involved in Jewish outreach for almost 15 years. He is a Hebrew School and English Language Arts teacher, and has a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Johns Hopkins University. Of all his pursuits, Elli most enjoys teaching high-level Jewish thought and Talmud to teenage boys, exposing them to the beauty and wisdom of their heritage while highlighting their own ability to engage in advanced Torah learning. Elli lives in Lakewood, New Jersey, with his wife and children.