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What sense does it make not to drive or turn on the light on Shabbat?

by Mrs. Sarah Levi

  

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Question:

Isn’t it more strenuous to walk long distances than it is to drive, so why are we not allowed to drive on Shabbat? - Rechev

Answer:

In order to understand the laws pertaining to Shabbat, we must first understand the basis and underlying nature of the Day of Rest.

The reason we rest on Shabbat is because "It was during the six weekdays that G-d made the heaven, the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on Saturday. G-d therefore blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:11)."

Now, we must understand what the Torah means when it says that G-d "rested." Was He tired? How can an infinite, omnipotent G-d need to rest?

Besides, the Torah tells us that G-d created the entire universe by speaking. Did that exhaust G-d to the point that He needed to unwind?

On the seventh day, G-d rested from creating. On Shabbat, we too abstain from "creating."
The answer is very simple. G-d did not rest from exertion--he rested from creation.

Creation is not necessarily synonymous with exertion and physical effort.

On the seventh day, G-d rested from creating. On Shabbat, we too abstain from "creating."

What constitutes "creation?"

Our sages have synthesized the paradigms of creation into 39 categories. There are 39 categories of activities considered to be creative. These 39 categories of activity were necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle that G-d commanded the Jews to build in the desert. All construction was to be suspended on Shabbat, despite the importance of building the Tabernacle. This serves as the source for determining which activities are considered "creation" and therefore prohibited on Shabbat.

Once it is clear to us that on Shabbat we abstain from CREATING and not necessarily from EXERTION, things make sense. When we drive a car, for example, we are CREATING fire (in the internal combustion engine). When we turn on the light, we are creating an electrical circuit. And so on with all other Shabbat prohibitions.

So, it's not an issue of stressful vs. unstressful--it's an issue of creative vs. non-creative.

Also, the six days of the week are days in which we transform the world outside of us. On Shabbat, however, we dedicate ourselves to our internal, personal, and spiritual world. In Kabbalistic terminology, the six days of the week belong to the "World of Speech," whereas Shabbat is the "World of Thought." (One speaks in order to communicate with others. One thinks in order to communicate with oneself.)

Therefore, on Shabbat, we retreat from interaction with the tumultuous material world and turn our concentration to our personal spirituality.


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COMMENTS

The turning on of lights on shabbat

Posted by: Lyn, Brentwood, Essex, United Kingdom on Jan 28, 2005

Hi, thanks very much for your kind response.

Although I am not Jewish, it has been of great interest to me.

My mother & I were talking today on this very subject, following the very harrowing scenes at Auschwitz.

She was telling me that when she was first married, 51 yrs ago, my parents were renting rooms from a lovely Jewish couple, and the lady asked if my mother would, on every Friday, go down to their rooms and turn on all lights. She did this willingly, but never did like to ask why.

Many thanks to you, I can now, after all these years, tell her why.

Kind regards
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Kabbalistic
(adj.) Pertaining to Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.