Shmuel Sackett
Shmuel SackettCourtesy

Like everyone else on the planet, I receive dozens of email advertisements and most of them, don’t even catch my eye… except for this one. It contained an interesting subject line – “We Did It” – and it caught my attention. I opened the email, looked at the graphics… and almost called Hatzolah for the stroke and heart attack I was expecting to have at any moment.

“We Did It!”, the email said. “The worldwide Jewish community now has a Shabbos resort on the Las Vegas strip, complete with 5-star cuisine, chassidishe meat, Shabbos elevators and a tznius pool!” The ad then went on to say that this was all in the newest hotel in Vegas, one that was built for a mere $4.3 billion (yes, that’s a “B”). I then clicked on the link to the website and found that in addition to everything else, this hotel has “the ability to change automatic plumbing fixtures in public bathrooms to accommodate Shabbos observance!” In other words, a Mehadrin bathroom!

I am certain that this will excite many people and lots of frum families will fly to Las Vegas to enjoy this “Shabbos resort” but I have a simple question: What message are we sending our kids when we spend the holiest day of the week on the Vegas strip? Yes, the meat is glatt, the pool is separate and the public bathrooms adhere to the strictest Halakhic standards but what about the spirit of the day? Where’s the neshama – the soul of Shabbos Kodesh?

Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus ztz”l wrote the following in his sefer; Nefesh Shimshon on Shabbos (page 10); “Shabbos Kodesh is the main mitzvah in which we develop a personal relationship with Hashem. When we greet Shabbos, we are actually greeting the Shechinah! Some commentaries explain that when we say the words Bo’i Kallah in Lecha Dodi, the word Kallah refers to Shabbos itself. Others say that Kallah refers to the Shechinah. But in truth it’s the same thing! Greeting Shabbos is greeting the Shechinah!!”

Let’s continue with Rav Pincus. “If a person is looking to attain Torah – Shavuos is the special time. If he’s looking to attain joy – Sukkos is the special time. To attain freedom, we have Pesach. But what if you’re looking for HaShem Himself? The time to find Him is on Shabbos, when HaKadosh Baruch Hu is not shrouded in darkness… In the olden times, there was a place to find HaShem – in the Beit HaMikdash… where Hashem’s presence was real… A Jew would just walk into the Beit HaMikdash and feel Hashem’s presence and love Him. He would know that He’s our Father in Heaven and that He’s involved in our lives, and that He loves us and cares about what happens to us… Today, the only Beit HaMikdash we have is Shabbos Kodesh. On Shabbos we find Hashem more than on any other day.” (pages 31-33)

Let’s be honest. Can one “greet the Shechinah” in a $4.3B hotel in Las Vegas? Where can one “find Hashem” on this great and awesome day? Next to the blackjack or poker table? What has happened to us? When did our priorities get so mixed up that we worry about plumbing fixtures in public bathrooms in the most immodest city in the world while totally ignoring the real meaning and essence of the day, which Rav Pincus compares to the Beit HaMikdash?

We need to get back to a real, authentic Torah way of life.

Stop saying that you are religious, or not religious – because Judaism is not a religion! Judaism is a way of life with the Torah at the center of it all. This life follows a strict path of Halakha, a demand to be holy, full of joy, respectful of others, separate from the nations and living in the one and only Land given to us by the King of Kings.

Dearest friends; despite what the advertisement says, the only time you can scream “WE DID IT!” is when you are sitting around your Shabbos table singing zemiros with your beautiful family in Eretz Yisrael. The cuisine may not be 5-star and you probably won’t have a pool, but you will be together with the Shechinah very close to where the 3rd and final Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt.

I’ll take that over the finest room in the billion-dollar Vegas hotel every Shabbos of the year. You can bet on it!

Shmuel Sackett is the Founder and Director of the Am Yisrael Chai Fund, which supports agricultural, educational and building projects across Eretz