“Remember the Shabbos day, to sanctify it; six days shall you work, and accomplish all your undertakings; but the seventh day is Shabbos, [dedicated] to Hashem… you shall not do any work… for in six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He ‘rested’ on the seventh day. Therefore, Hashem blessed the Shabbos day and sanctified it.”
The fourth of the Ten Commandments has many lessons and messages. It teaches us that keeping the Shabbos, not working on the Shabbos (as defined by the Oral Torah) is a Jew’s testimony that he or she believes that Hashem created the world. That simple belief was not so simple throughout history, including our times. And if there is a Creator, there is a plan and purpose to the world. This is powerful stuff. And the world has a Master to whom we are beholden for having created us. More powerful stuff. And we proclaim those beliefs —or at least have the potential to —every single Shabbos.
And Hashem blessed the Shabbos day —it is a blessed day. What does that mean? Rashi tells us that this alludes to the mahn, whose story we read last week. Shabbos is blessed in that the mahn fell in double measure on Friday, and when the Jews collected their portions of mahn, each Jew had a double measure! A double measure! What a blessing! Work for six days and you will have sustenance — magically — for seven. This is the blessing that we are promised in association with Shabbos —it is a day of berachah, of shefa, of Heavenly favor, enjoyment and gain.
We also read that Hashem sanctified the Shabbos day. Six days are for you, the passuk states. The seventh is for Hashem, not a day for worldly, mundane pursuits. This is a day to be devoted to Hashem, to leading a more spiritual life, studying Torah, contemplating Hashem and His beautiful creation, developing love of Hashem, yir’as Hashem. This is a day that we break free of our own melachah-induced activities and can devote to the service of Hashem. A holy, sanctified day. A spiritual day.
According to these pesukim, refraining from melachah on Shabbos accomplishes three salutary effects. It proclaims that the world has a Creator, it confers blessing on that special day (for we have enough for that day though we don’t work on it — work six, have for seven!), and it confers kedushah on that day, as we are not busy with our mundane pursuits, and are free to contemplate Hashem and immerse ourselves in spirituality for 25 hours.
The twin ideas of berachah and kedushah are both mentioned at the very inception and introduction of Shabbos to us, in the story of creation itself! “Thus, the heaven and the earth were completed. . . Hashem completed His work, which He had done… and G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on this day He abstained from all His work…” Once again, the double theme of berachah and kedushah; Shabbos —the Holy day, the blessed day.
Puzzlingly, there is yet another message that Shabbos teaches, one that at first glance does not seem at all to be the theme of the day; another lesson to be learned by not doing melachah.
“Safeguard the Shabbos. . . you shall not do any work. . . . And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and Hashem your G-d has taken you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm; therefore Hashem has commanded you to make the Shabbos day.” (Devarim 5:12-15)
What is this all about? Where and how is yetzias mitzrayim a message of Shabbos? The answer lies in yet another aspect of Yom Hashabbos, in addition to the berachah and the kedushah. And that is based on the many references in davening and in Chazal to Shabbos as the quintessential “yom menuchah” –a day of rest! As we say, “yom menuchah ukedushah leamchah nassata” —You have given Your nation a day of menuchah and kedushah. We further say, “And You have given… Shabassos lemenuchah.” Rashi tells us in Bereishis—“What was the world still missing (at the end of creation)? The concept of ‘rest’ —when Shabbos comes, rest enters.” And so the third leg of Shabbos is the leg of menuchah—no, you are not a slave to your work, at the end of the day you are an independent person, free to pursue with your time what you choose to pursue— you are not a slave! Neither to another person,
nor to your own work! This becomes a message of Shabbos, when it is forbidden to do work. You have no work to do! Imagine that all your work is done! You are free! Indeed, every single Shabbos is a mini-Pesach, containing a mini-yetzias mitzrayim!
And so we say in our Shabbos evening tefillos—mekadeish hashabbos; umevarech shevi’i; umainiach bekedushah. (umainiach —bestows menuchah)
No work —kedushah, berachah, menuchah.
And there is more! For in last week’s parshah, Klal Yisrael is introduced to the Shabbos with nary a word about any of these properties —neither as a testimony to creation, nor as a mini-Pesach, nor as a day of spiritual pursuits. Rather, the Jews are introduced to Shabbos as an object lesson in — bitachon! Having faith and trust in G-d, relying on G-d to take care of my needs, realizing that the ‘work’ that I do is but a mirage, merely my hishtadlus, my obligation to perform these ‘normal’ acts set up by Hashem to bring about —usually —a certain result; or at least to give the best chance of doing so. However, a Jew never loses sight of the fact that it is Hashem who is making things happen, it is He who decides and decrees success or failure. Not ‘kochi veotzem yadi.’ Hashem determines and sends parnassah, shidduchim, health, hatzlachah… not anything that we do! And that is the lesson of Shabbos inherent in the mahn —don’t worry, Hashem will provide, do not go out to collect mahn today, do not work today, trust in Hashem, He can give you for seven days as easily as He gives for six! For —and here is the point —He is the one providing for you on the six days of your labor as well! Shabbos —the great bitachon teacher!
May I suggest that you, dear reader, take these four motifs and talk about them, think about them, perhaps on a rotating basis, focusing on a different Shabbos lesson each Shabbos. Will you try it?
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