A Memorial to the Deed of Creation
(from the Shabbat Kiddush)
When we say Kiddush, the sanctification of Shabbat on Friday evening, after we complete the blessing of the wine, we conclude with the following blessing:
"Blessed are You, HaShem our G-d, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and hoped for us, and with love and intent invested us with His sacred Sabbath, as a memorial to the deed of Creation. It is the first amongst the holy festivals, commemorating the exodus from Egypt. For You chose us, and sanctified us, out of all nations, and with love and intent You invested us with Your Holy Sabbath."
The connection between the Shabbat and the six days of creation is inherently clear: G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Therefore, we also refrain from work on Shabbat. But what does Shabbat have to do with the exodus from Egypt? Where's the connection?
As we read this week's Torah parasha of Va'era (Exodus 6:2-9:35), we begin to learn about the ten plagues with which G-d would afflict Egypt. As the story unfolds we see that G-d's devastation of Egypt is so thorough and so complete, it can almost appear to be gratuitous. Why put the Egyptians through such misery when G-d could have easily sent Israel out in an instant. What was there to gain by drawing out the affair?
There are ten occasions in the Torah account of creation in which G-d said, "Let there be..." These are known as the ten utterances of creation. With these ten "Let there be's" G-d created the heavens and the earth, and all the elements and life that populate them. Could G-d have created all of existence with a single utterance, a single "Let there be...?" Of course. But G-d chose to bring creation into existence gradually, step by step, so that man will be able to witness and study and comprehend the act of creation, and by so doing, comprehend and appreciate and celebrate and honor the holy Shabbat, the day that G-d "ceased from work and rested." (Exodus 31:16-17)
It is our custom to stand while reciting the Shabbat Kiddush, in the manner of someone giving testimony. For by relating the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest, we are giving testimony to our faith that G-d did, indeed create our world. And therefore it is incumbent upon us, bearers of this knowledge, to likewise rest on the seventh day.
The only catch is that we weren't there for the six days of creation. We are in effect, giving testimony to something that we did not directly witness. We were, however, in Egypt, and we did, in fact witness the ten plagues with which G-d punished Egypt. If we examine the nature of the ten plagues, we become aware that each of the ten plagues directly affected a particular aspect of G-d's creation. In one plague, all plant life was destroyed. In another plague all the beasts of the field were annihilated. In one plague the waters of Egypt were rendered deadly, and in another plague the heavenly firmament was blotted out of the sky. In the final plague, the first borns of Egypt were slain, spelling doom for man himself, the crown of G-d's creation.
The math speaks for itself: With ten utterances creation came into being, and with ten plagues that very creation was undone, unravelled and made defunct. Each time it was only G-d's intervention, via Moshe that restored order back to creation. Anyone with eyes in his head would know that only a G-d who had created the world could thusly wreak havoc on His own creation. And this was G-d's express purpose:
"'But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and I will increase My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not hearken to you, and I will lay My hand upon the Egyptians, and I will take My legions, My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt with great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am HaShem when I stretch forth My hand over Egypt, and I will take the children of Israel out of their midst.'" (ibid 7:3-5)
But it wasn't just the Egyptians who witness G-d's signs and wonders. All the world witnessed, including Israel. And by witnessing, all the world understood that there is but one G-d, and that same G-d created the world and that same G-d will deal with the world as He sees fit. By having witnessed the exodus from Egypt we are able to personally substantiate our Shabbat Kiddush testimony that G-d is, indeed, the creator of our world, as it is stated in the first half of the Shabbat Kiddush:
"And on the seventh day G-d completed the labor He had performed, and He refrained on the seventh day from all the labor which He had performed. And G-d blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it, for He then refrained from all his labor - from the act of creation that G-d had performed."
There is no true observance of Shabbat without a knowledge of the exodus, and there is no true exodus from servitude without an acknowledgment of the seventh day, the day that G-d "refrained from all his labor - from the act of creation that God had performed." Shabbat Shalom!
Tune in to this week's Temple Talk as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the ten plagues, the blindness of Pharaoh to the truth of G-d's existence, and the beginning of the long march from exile & servitude to liberty & redemption.