Shabbos is a grand equalizer. All Jews become kings and queens on Shabbos. We all go "on vacation" to the same resort hotel called the serenity of Shabbos. We dress our finest, eat the same basic delicacies, and enjoy family time. There is no competition when it comes to Shabbos.

The Sanzer Rebbe once said: "I don't ever want to sleep on Shabbos. All Jews are kings when Shabbos arrives and we shouldn't sleep through our reign. There was once a king who slept very little at night declaring, ‘When I sleep I am not a king. I am no different from any other slumbering soul.' Let's not waste Shabbos by sleeping through it."

All Jews are kings on Shabbos. There is no competition. There is only peace.

Unfortunately, these peaceful feelings do not always translate into the week. Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg said that competition is not healthy for one's character. If I can only succeed by putting you down, chances are I will wish for you to fail more than I want to succeed. Yet we live in an environment that motivates through competition. Our schools have student-comparison charts on the bulletin board and Bees to determine who knows the material best. The focus has shifted from "who knows things well" to "who knows things best." This is "gaining respect through another's disgrace," conduct the Torah abhors.


If all I have to do to be successful is to beat you, it's a whole lot easier to cause you to do worse than me, rather than to get myself to do better than you. The result is that students will not push themselves to truly reach their personal maximum if all they have to do to flourish is defeat someone else. And what happens to the weaker students who know that they cannot actually win the competition? What is their drive to do their best? Does it really make sense to reward the brightest students more for easily winning than the slower ones who are doing their best?

It is true that "the envy of scholars increases wisdom" (Baba Basra 21a) but this does not mean we should compete with someone else. We are supposed to observe the accomplishments of those around us, learning from them in motivating ourselves to excel as best as we can. We don't rival others; we learn from their example.

Watch kids when they play sports. Do they play for exercise and for the development of their skills, or do they play in order to win? Have you seen the way otherwise pure, good-natured kids, will transform into screaming tigers on the baseball field? "He was safe!" "No way, he was out!" When the kids choose up sides, do they try to even out the teams so they will have a good competition, or do they seek to get the best players in order to win the contest? Aren't they humiliating their friend in public when they avoid picking the "loser" players? How does the last kid picked feel when nobody wants him?

Yes, we should be competitive, but only with ourselves. Winning does not have to mean defeating someone else. It can be accomplished by struggling against ourselves, trying to improve upon our personal past performance. Shabbos comes to remind us that all Jews are equal as long as we are striving to grow and become better. Shabbos reminds us that competition is not a Torah value. We are all kings and queens on Shabbos, as well as during the week.

Excerpted from "More Shabbos In My Soul" (Feldheim 2008) by 'Kol Yaakov' columnist, Rabbi Boruch Lef. The book. is the second volume in this highly successful series and is sure to add even more spiritual power to your Shabbos. Click here for more information: