The Difference Between Yom Tov and Shabbat
By Avi Lazerson
On the Shabbat it is forbidden to cook, yet on the Jewish Holy days, it is permitted. Not only is it permitted, it is even recommended in order to have more enjoyable food.
The Shabbat is called an "oneg", meaning a delight, whereas the Jewish Holidays are called "simcha", times of happiness.
The Shabbat is fixed by G-d eternally, yet the Jewish holidays are dependent on the Jewish calendar which is fixed by man, hence the Jews through the agency of the ancient Jewish courts fix the time for the holidays and not G-d.
Why is there this difference between Yom Tov and Shabbat?
This can be understood with a comparison of a king who invited a commoner to his palace versus a commoner who invited the king to his house.
When a king would invite the commoner to visit him in the palace, it would be a very special and exciting time for the commoner. First, the time for the commoner to come to visit the king would be dependent upon the king. Also the food would be special and everything that the commoner would eat would be a special delicacy and delight. Obviously, the commoner would refrain from entering into the kitchen to prepare any foods, the king's servants would be in charge of the preparations.
When the commoner would invite the king, it would be he that arranged the time and day in accordance with the king's desires. The commoner would not delight so much in the food as in the fact that the king has come to his house to visit. The more that he was able to prepare to honor the king would add happiness to the commoner, for his happiness would not be in his eating but in the king's visit to him, a lowly common person. Therefore the commoner goes into the kitchen to cook tasty dishes.
On the day before the Sabbath, we are like the servants of the King; we prepare the food for the royal feast. On the Sabbath, however, we are like the guests of the King; we partake in the delicacies that the King has provided. The King Himself has decided upon this day to have us, the commoners, come to visit him.
On the Jewish festivals, we have invited the King, through the setting of the Jewish calendar to visit us. It is our simcha that the King has agreed to visit us. We are the host and we busy ourselves making the King comfortable in our home. Our joy is seeing the King enjoying his stay with us.
This is the specialness of the Jewish holidays. We are the host to the King of kings. We must be careful to treat it with the proper respect.
from the December 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine