There is a four-letter word in the English language that lingers at our side constantly, seeking to drain us of our sanity and quality of life: work.
Much of society lives from one vacation to another, counting the days until they can finally take their mind off this most pressing “need” and enjoy some rest, relaxation and fun. Ever since we were polluted by the venom of the Serpent, mankind has been saddled with this nagging pressure. However, there is a better way to live. It’s called Shabbat.
Our parashah states, “Work shall be done during the six weekdays, but the seventh day will be holy for you; it is a complete rest for God” (Exodus 35:2). The phrasing “work shall be done” implies that through keeping Shabbat, our work can actually be done for us! This is because our keeping Shabbat creates a source of bounty that flows to the six workdays of the week. Our resting on Shabbat actually fuels the success of our work during the week.
The Torah therefore states about God Himself, “With the Seventh Day, God completed His work that He had done” (Genesis 2:2). What in Creation was lacking that God needed to complete? Our Rabbis answer that the only thing missing was rest. God therefore created the Shabbat, which includes rest, and Creation was finally complete. We now see that God’s very own work was brought to fruition only through rest.
Although resting may seem counterintuitive to prospering, there is actually good reason behind this. We translated the word in the verse above, VaYichal, as “completed”; in other sources, the root of this word means “to desire.” Accordingly, the verse also tells us that on Shabbat, God desires the work that is done during the six workdays. This phenomenon is known as HaArat HaRatzon, “the illumination of desire.” On Shabbat, God illuminates us with an awesome desire for spirituality and closeness to Him.
Imagine experiencing a blinding and piercing light so powerful that the physical world becomes null. This light expresses God’s will and desire in giving us bounty and His interaction with this world. The more we rest on Shabbat by infusing our thoughts and actions with faith in God, the more we experience the illuminations of His desire and perceive His hand and His blessings in every facet of our lives.
The bite of the Serpent had the opposite effect. It convinced us that everything is up to us and is our responsibility. Only we can bring about our ultimate success and we must therefore work until we have nothing left in the tank. Therefore the verse says, “Work shall be done during the six weekdays.” Work is defined as the 39 Types of Labor that were involved in the construction of the Tabernacle; these forms of labor are prohibited on Shabbat. Only through resting on Shabbat are all these 39 types of work blessed and brought to fruition. King David explains, “He prepares dew for the land…He does not desire the strength of a horse, nor the muscles of man; God desires those who fear Him” (Psalms 147:8, 10-11).
Rashi explains that although we were already commanded regarding the Shabbat, the Torah repeats the command here, before the command to build the Tabernacle, lest we think that building the Tabernacle supersedes resting on Shabbat. Although the illumination of desire enlightens us to the extent that we realize all of our work is brought to fruition only through God, still, on Shabbat we can reach an even higher level. Through resting properly on Shabbat, it is possible to become absolutely nullified to the extent that we experience only Godliness and every other act is trivial and naught. Only by first reaching these spiritual heights can we later extend this perception to the six workdays, to finally live all week long with God’s blessing and bounty. Amen!
Based on Likutey Halakhot, Shabbat 3