Protecting Our Gateway to Gan Eden
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Moshe Rabbenu tells Beneh Yisrael in Parashat Re'eh, כי לא באתם עד עתה אל המנוחה ואל הנחלה - "for you have yet to arrive at the resting place and permanent estate." Simply, this refers to the fact that Beneh Yisrael had not yet constructed a permanent site of worship. They had the portable Mishkan, which they carried with them, and did not yet have a permanent structure. Rashi adds that the terms מנוחהand נחלה refer, respectively, to the Mishkan that stood in the town of Shiloh, and to the permanent Bet Ha'mikdash which was later built in Jerusalem by King Shelomoh. The Mishkan in Shiloh is called מנוחה - "rest" - because it marked a temporary but stable period when Beneh Yisrael had a central site of worship. The נחלה - the final, eternal site of worship - was the Bet Ha'mikdash in Jerusalem.
The Mishnah in Masechet Megillah notes, interestingly enough, that the Mishkan in Shiloh had a certain "advantage," so-to-speak, over the Bet Ha'mikdash - a special quality that the Bet Ha'mikdash did not have. Once the Bet Ha'mikdash was built, the meat of קדשים קלים (lower-level sacrifices) needed to be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem. (The קדשי קדשים, or higher-level sacrifices, needed to be eaten in the courtyard of the Bet Ha'mikdash.) When the Mishkan stood in Shiloh, however, the meat of קדשים קלים could be eaten any place from where one could see the Mishkan. Even if one took the meat to a hilltop very far from the Mishkan, he was allowed to eat it at that spot, if he was able to see the Mishkan from there.
The Gemara in Masechet Zevahim (118) gives a fascinating explanation for why the Mishkan in Shiloh was granted this unique stature, noting that Shiloh was situated in territory assigned to the descendants of Yosef. Yosef's special quality, the Gemara explains, was that he hadעין שלא רצתה לזון וליהנות מדבר שאינו שלו - an eye that refused to look upon that which did not belong to him. This refers to the time when he was tempted by Potifar's wife, and he refused to look at her. Yosef controlled his eyes, refusing to look at that which was not suitable for him, and therefore the Mishkan erected in his territory was granted a special stature involving vision. The Mishkan in Shilo did not need a wall around it to circumscribe the sacred territory, like Jerusalem had, because Yosef's eyes themselves were "walls," looking only at where they were supposed to look.
Significantly, the Mishkan in Shiloh is referred to as מנוחה - a place of "rest." When a person has this quality of refusing to look at and be tempted by דבר שאינו שלו - that which is off-limits to him - he enjoys a peaceful, tranquil life. Much of the anxiety that plagues people is the feeling that they have less than others, the obsessive need to keep up with the people around them. When we live with Yosef's special quality, recognizing that Hashem gives us precisely what we're supposed to have and we do not need to have anything else, we enjoy מנוחה - peace and tranquility.
Shabbat, of course, is a day of מנוחה, and thus it is a time to reinforce our commitment to avoid looking at דבר שאינו שלו - things which are not meant for us. We enjoy the special מנוחה of Shabbat by looking only at what is given to us, without looking at that which we are not meant to have.
This connection is reinforced by the comments of the Shem Mi'Shmuel (Parashat Miketz, 5677), who writes that Yosef is associated with Shabbat. The Shem Mi'Shmuel explains this concept by establishing that a person's heart corresponds to Gan Eden, and the eyes, the "gateway" to the heart, correspond to the gates of Gan Eden. One of the commands regarding Shabbat is the command of שמור את יום השבת - to "guard" Shabbat. Shabbat is, in a sense, Gan Eden, a glimpse of the perfect, pristine reality, and it needs to be protected. Part of the way we protect Shabbat, the Shem Mi'Shmuel writes, is through שמירת עיניים - guarding our eyes, ensuring to avoid looking upon that which we should not see. The eyes are the gateway to our heart, to Gan Eden, and thus we protect Gan Eden through שמירת עיניים. On Shabbat, then, which resembles Gan Eden, we must be especially vigilant to guard our eyes.
This is why Yosef is associated with Shabbat. Yosef excelled in the area of שמירת עיניים, avoiding forbidden sights, and he therefore serves as the model of guarding "Gan Eden," which is included in the command of שמור את יום השבת לקדשו - the command to "guard" and protect Shabbat.
We might develop this point further by noting the uniqueness of Adam and Havah's experience in Gan Eden. In one of the berachot recited in honor of a bride and groom at the wedding and during the sheva berachot celebrations, we wish them that Hashem should bring them joy the way He brought joy to Adam and Havah in Gan Eden: שמח תשמח רעים האהובים כשמחך יצירך בגן עדן מקדם. It has been explained that when Adam and Havah met and married, there was no other man and no other woman in the world. It was clear to them beyond any shadow of a doubt that they had precisely what they needed. When reciting this blessing, we wish the bride and groom that they should see one another the way Adam and Havah saw one another, that they should always feel that they have precisely what they need, and never look longingly at anybody or anything else.
The existence in Gan Eden was one where there was no desire at all to look upon דבר שאינו שלו, anything else besides what one is supposed to have. And it is in this sense that Shabbat is "Gan Eden." It is when we must remind ourselves that we have everything we need, and we have no reason to look at anything else. And thus there is special importance to שמירת עיניים, avoiding improper sights, on Shabbat.
Elsewhere (Parashat Vayikra, 5675), the Shem Mi'Shmuel elaborates on the connection between Shabbat and the special quality of the Mishkan in Shiloh. He explains that sacrifices can be eaten only within the walls of Jerusalem because sanctity requires "borders" to protect it from the forces of tum'ah (impurity). These forces threaten to undermine anything sacred, and so the sacrifices need the protection of walls. However, the Shem Mi'Shmuel writes, a person who makes a special effort to distance himself from the forces of impurity does not require protection, because the forces of tum'ah naturally stay away from such a person. Therefore, since Yosef made great efforts to keep a safe distance from Potifar's wife, from impurity, the Mishkan in his territory did not require walls to protect the kedushah from impurity. The Shem Mi'Shmuel adds that Shabbat is a day when the forces of tum'ah stay away at a distance. They lose all their power on Shabbat. And the more a person ensures to remain within the boundaries of kedushah, the Shem Mi'Shmuel writes, the more protected he will be from the forces of tum'ah.
The Shem Mi'Shmuel here provides us with a priceless segulah - an effective strategy for staying safe from negative forces. By distancing ourselves from impurity, especially on Shabbat, we ensure that the impure forces will distance themselves from us and not cause us any harm.
This special quality of Shabbat is reflected by the fact that we do not sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah when it falls on Shabbat. The sounding of the shofar serves to drive away the angels that prosecute against us in the heavens. On Shabbat, however, this is not necessary. Shabbat itself keeps away the negative forces, and thus we have no need to sound the shofar.
It is clear, then, that paying special attention to שמירת עיניים on Shabbat is not merely an admirable measure to undertake, but rather an important element of the Shabbat experience. The מנוחה of Shabbat is about experiencing Gan Eden, feeling content with what Hashem has allowed us to enjoy in this world, and not feeling any need to look at that which is not given to us. The more we commit ourselves to keeping our eyes and minds focused on that which Hashem has granted us, the greater our מנוחהwill be, and the more protected we will be from the evil spiritual forces which seek to cause us harm.