Something fishy about hating Shabbos

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO — I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Rabbi Yitzchok Chinn of McKees Port, Pensylvania, when he was a guest speaker at a Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva Convention, where he told the following story:

Rabbi Chinn knew an older Jewish man who said to him, “I hate Shabbos!”

The Rabbi thought perhaps he heard him wrong.

The man repeated, “I hate Shabbos!”

Rabbi Chinn was sad to hear this, but at the same time intrigued. He had heard people say that they didn’t appreciate Shabbos, didn’t understand Shabbos, didn’t love Shabbos, didn’t care about Shabbos; but he never heard anyone go so far as to exclaim emphatically that they hated Shabbos.

“Why do you hate Shabbos?” the Rabbi asked.

“When I was a boy I lived in a shtetel (small village) in Eastern Europe. My father worked hard all week to eke out a living and support our family, and my mother labored round the clock cooking, cleaning, and mending to take care of us. The crowning day of the week for our family was Shabbos. All week long, my parents yearned for Shabbos and prepared for it to make it perfect in every way. My mother prepared a Shabbos table that was magnificent. The silver, the china, the linen and lace were dazzling. No matter how tough their week, my parents glowed like a king and queen at the royal banquet.”

At this point it was beginning to sound awe inspiring. Certainly difficult to see why any of this could cause one to hate Shabbos.

The man continued, “Even though my parents were far from wealthy, they had the finest Shabbos delicacies, including fish which was very expensive. I however hated fish. I could barely tolerate the smell of fish much less the taste. Yet every Shabbos my father would force me to eat fish at the Shabbos meal. When I told him I didn’t want to eat any fish, he would say, ‘It is tradition to eat fish on Shabbos. It is written to eat fish on Shabbos. It’s a mitzvah to eat fish on Shabbos. My father ate fish on Shabbos, my grandfather ate fish on Shabbos; and you are going to eat fish on Shabbos!’ At this point I was afraid to argue so I just held my nose and ate the fish, detesting every last bite.”

Ironically, the reason we eat fish on Shabbos because it is a tasty treat to most people, but if you don’t like fish, don’t eat it on Shabbos. The father, not being learned, knew only the general rule, not all the reasons and details.

“All week long I would dread Shabbos,” continued the man, “Because I knew my father would force me to eat that fish. I hate Shabbos.”

Indeed, Rabbi Chinn reflected, as a direct result of this father’s ignorant unbending rigidity, Shabbos put a bad taste in this man’s mouth – literally. How important it is for us to understand the meanings behind our observances and practices. How important it is for us feel joy for a mitzvah and create an atmosphere of love for mitzvos for our children.


Dedicated by Frank & Merill Felber, in memory of his father Avraham ben Yozef, in honor of his Yahrzeit, Shevat 1.

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