Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra

The following story is one that pertains not only to Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, but also to Shabbat.

In 1159 (4919), more than 840 years ago, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra had a dream. It took place on a Friday night, and after Shabbat ended, he wrote down what he had dreamt.

“I was pleasantly sleeping, and in my dream I saw an angel standing in front of me that resembled a man. He was holding a sealed letter, and he said to me, ‘Take this letter. It is on Shabbat that I send it to you.’ I bowed before G-d and I blessed Him for having granted me such a great honor. I took hold of the letter with both hands and read it. It was like honey in my mouth.

“This is how the letter began: ‘I, Shabbat, crowned by those who are valued, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, an eternal covenant for all the generations. … Every day one may find the doors of understanding open, but on Shabbat a hundred doors are opened. My honor desires that one not behave on Shabbat as during the week, neither in moving about, nor in business, nor in speech. And I kept watch over you everyday because you carefully guarded me since the days of your youth.’ ”

However when Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra arrived at the end of the letter, he saw that it contained on open rebuke. Stunned, he began to tremble.

“My heart is hot within me, and my soul almost escapes me, and I ask the one who is standing in front of me, ‘What is my error, and what is my sin? For since the day that I knew awesome G-d – Who created me and from Whom I learned His mitzvot – I have always loved Shabbat, for whose arrival I would go out to greet it with all my heart, and for whose departure I would accompany it with songs of joy. Who was more faithful among its followers than I, and why am I being sent this letter?’ ”

The angel let him know that one of his disciples had let himself become seduced by false ideologies that had “decided” that Shabbat began on Saturday morning and continued until Sunday morning. It was as simple as that, a “discovery” without any foundation, contrary to all tradition that we hold since Moses, and contrary to what is written in the Torah: “And there was evening” followed next by “and there was morning.” Thus in all eras there arise “Sages” that propose all sorts of things. This one believes that such and such is not considered forbidden work on Shabbat, another gives “proof” for neglecting something else on Shabbat, and so on and so forth. However the Torah is eternal, and Shabbat complains about the insults that it receives.

Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra ends by writing, “Whoever adopts such an explanation, G-d will take vengeance on him in honor of Shabbat. Whoever reads this explanation, may his tongue stick to his palate. And whoever writes this explanation, may his arm be torn off and his eye grow dim. Thus there will be light for all the house of Israel!”

This letter was published for the first time at the end of the Arizal’s Shulchan Aruch, and it teaches us just how much one should watch over the honor of Shabbat.

Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra’s Hilloula is on Adar 1.





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