Ledorotam Berit Olam
This week's Perasha talks about how the Jewish people kept the Shabbat. Shabbat is such a gift that its reward was not publicized to the nations, or some say the "extra soul" aspect of it was not publicized to the nations.
Gemara Bei'a 16a:
א"ר יוחנן משום ר' שמעון בן יוחי כל מצות שנתן להם הקב"ה לישראל נתן להם בפרהסיא חוץ משבת שנתן להם בצנעא שנאמר (שמות לא) ביני ובין בני ישראל אות היא לעולם אי הכי לא לענשו נכרים עלה שבת אודועי אודעינהו מתן שכרה לא אודעינהו ואי בעית אימא מתן שכרה נמי אודעינהו נשמה יתירה לא אודעינהו דאמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש נשמה יתירה נותן הקב"ה באדם ערב שבת ולמוצאי שבת נוטלין אותה הימנו שנאמר (שמות לא) שבת וינפש כיון ששבת ווי אבדה נפש:
Said R' Yohanan in the name of R' Shimon Ben Yohai: All the Mitzvot that HKB"H gave the Jews were given openly except for Shabbat, which He gave them privately, as it says, (Shemot 31:17) "Between Me and between the Children of Israel - it is an eternal sign". [The Gemara asks:] If so, non-Jews should not be punished for it! [See Rashi who explains that non-Jews were punished for not keeping the Torah and Mitzvot - see A"Z 2b. The Gemara answers:] He informed them about Shabbat itself, but as for its reward, He did not inform them. And if you want, I will [alternatively] say that He even informed them about the reward for keeping Shabbat, but as for the "extra soul" aspect of Shabbat, He did not inform them, as R' Shimon ben Lakish says: HKB"H gives an extra soul inside a person on Friday and on Saturday night, He takes it away from him, as it says, (Shemot 31:17) "He stopped work (שבת) and He rested(וינפש)." - Once a person's Shabbat is over, oy, the [extra] soul is lost.
Arachim speaks of this idea (my translation):
The Anshei Kenesset Hagedola (Men of the Great Assembly) included this idea in the text of the Shabbat prayer: "And Hashem - our G-d - did not give it to the nations of the lands, and our King did not bequeath it to the idol-worshippers, and also, in its rest, the uncircumsized will not dwell. For to Israel, Your nation, You have given it with love, to the seed of Jacob, in whom You chose."
The promise of the special connection between HKB"H and Israel through the Shabbat is fulfilled in a miraculous way. As is known, in the early days of Christianity, the Christians set Shabbat to be their day of rest. However, as Christianity started spreading through the world, Divine Providence made it happen that the Christians moved their 'Sabbath' one day forward to Sunday. This way, the Shabbat did not lose its uniqueness - its being a sign and symbol as a connection between Hashem and Israel alone. This matter happened a second time with the Muslims. They chose for themselves Friday to be their day of rest, and they left Shabbat as a sign for the special covenant between Israel and its G-d.
As a people, we need to understand the special gift that Shabbat is. Shabbat is not something that can be played with. Desecrating it is tantamount to taking this precious gift that is unique to the Jewish people and throwing it in Hashem's face. We need to learn the laws of Shabbat - both Zachor and Shamor - the positive Mitzvot and negative Mitzvot of Shabbat. By doing so, we will have a deeper understanding of how special the gift is.
As Mordechai ben David sings: Just One Shabbos and We'll all be Free. If we would keep one more Shabbat properly, as the Jewish people did in the desert, we will be redeemed, Haza"l say. Let us hope that this comes speedily in our days.