Benyosef, Simcha H. “Key to the Locked Garden: Learning to Enhance the Shabbat Experience”, Menorah Books, 2018.
Observing and Loving the Sabbath
Rabbi Isaac Luria was known as the Ari and was a Chasidic master who had the ability to bring divine service to an experiential level. His descendant Rabbi Moses Luria also did the same and spent much of his life passing those teachings on. Simcha H. Benyosef was asked by Luria to make his teachings public and available in English and this book is the result of that request. We learn that Rabbi Luria once shared with Rabbi Yoel Benharrouche that he came to the world to transmit through his writings the teachings of the Inner Torah that the holy Ari could not do since his death deprived him on that. The Ari’s teachings originate in the Zohar and Rabbi Moses Luria’s explanations illuminate the complexity of those teachings as well as the Zohar and those of the Ari.
Luria, the younger, has added allegorical explanations that are based on human relationships that enable one to relate to these lofty concepts. Benyosef’s intention it to further amplify these teachings in order to make them available to Torah scholars who are able to understand the original writings, but to the community of Israel. This is quite a difficult task when we consider all of the various levels of the community regarding knowledge and insight. Benyosef so brilliantly brings the Kabbalistic concepts to life for both the layperson, that even for a Kabbalist who is familiar with them and there is a great deal of new information here.
Benyosef shares that his intention in writing this book was to bring the reader that “spiritual darkness is an optical illusion and that all we need to do to dissolve it is to draw to ourselves the Shabbat consciousness.” When Shabbat is over, the consciousness of the day leaves as well and we see here in “Key to the Locked Garden” how to unlock our inner garden and keep Shabbat consciousness to ourselves during the weekdays. The book gives us the teachings and instructions for Shabbat observance that once were available only to an elite few.
The book’s chapter headings go with each part of the eve and Shabbat being with the idea that Shabbat gives us a taste of the world to come and illuminates the darkness that is such a part of so many lives. There are three appendices, one of which is a collection of mystical readings for the Shabbat table. I found myself experiencing Shabbat differently this week by concentrating on some of what’s here and it was quite a welcome from the rest of the week.