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And on the seventh day thou shalt not rest

by Rabbi Manis Friedman


Library » Shabbat » A Day of Rest | Subscribe | What is RSS?


G-d completed His work on the seventh day.” (Genesis 2:1) While it is generally assumed that the world was created in six days, by the end of the sixth day the world was hardly complete. This may be compared to a king who made a bridal chamber. He plastered, painted and adorned it. But the chamber was lacking something: a bride to enter. So, too, the world lacked “rest.” Thus came the Shabbat Queen, the seventh day, and brought rest, and the world was finished and completed.

The “rest” of Shabbat is not a passive, simple desisting from work and labor, to refresh our ability to continue working. On the contrary, it is itself a form of work: “The children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat, to make the Shabbat.” (Exodus 31:16) It is something positive, to be made and created every week, in an active sense. The Ten Commandments thus ordain: “Remember the Sabbath-day to sanctify it.”

Jewish life is rooted in time. There are set times for the daily prayers in the morning, afternoon and evening. The seventh day of every week is holy. Festivals are to be observed every year on distinct dates in the calendar. Every seventh year is a Sabbatical year, and every fiftieth year a Jubilee-year. The life-cycle evolves around certain ages for education, legal maturity, and ascending stages of self-perfection (Avot, end of ch. 5).

At the core of all is Shabbat, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar; (in certain respects) transcending even Yom Kippur. It is “a remembrance of the work of creation...a memorial to the exodus from Egypt.” Thus it reminds us (a) of our roots, of the fact that the universe and all it contains were created by G-d; and (b) that G-d is directly involved with the world and controls it, that Divine Providence guides all events in history.

The consciousness of Shabbat (“Remember the Sabbath-day”) is to be continuous, every day. In Jewish tradition, therefore, there are no names for the six weekdays. Each day is referred to in relation to Shabbat: “the first day toward the Shabbat; the second day toward the Shabbat;” and so forth. Thus not only is every seventh day holy, but it hallows and sanctifies the remaining days as well.

Time itself, even our days of mundane labor and entanglements, is sanctified and sublimated by Shabbat. Every single day in life is precious, irreplaceable, and must be marked and preserved with holiness. The Baal Shem Tov thus cautioned: do not allow a single day to pass without performing a Mitzvah, good deed. The potential to sanctify time is derived from Shabbat. In the words of the Zohar: “All the days are blessed from and by the Shabbat.”

The secret of Shabbat is the principle of Oneness, Unity, to become one with the One. The Baal Shem Tov teaches: On the Shabbat, the holy Glory of G-d is revealed and shines forth, illuminating all creation. The Divine Light that gives existence to all creation emanates from the Divine essence, and all creation is then filled with yearning toward G-d. This is like a child who on his own follows his childish ways and totally forgets about his parents. Later, when the child sees his parent, he abandons everything, running to the parent and attaching himself to him.


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The Sabbath

Posted by: Ralph G., Philadelphia, Pa on Jan 03, 2005

It was very insightful!

The shabbos

Posted by: Rueven Banilov, BROOKLYN, New York on Feb 23, 2005

I understand -but heres the problem, what about the other non chasidic jews, waht do they belive

Editor's Comment

As far as I am aware, they have no qualms with that which is written here.

Thou shalt not rest

Posted by: Anonymous, New York, NY on Feb 23, 2005

correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't yom kippur transcend shabbos? if the fast falls out on shabbos, we DO fast. thus, shabbos does not transcend yom kippur, the opposit of what it says in paragraph four of the article. if i misunderstood the article, i apologize.

Editor's Comment

Indeed we fast if Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbat. However, the holiness of Shabbat is still greater than the holiness of Yom Kippur. This is demonstrated in many ways. For example:

1. The greater the day, the more aliyot at the Sefer Torah. On Yom Kippur there are six aliyot, on Shabbat seven.

2. The punishment for transgressing the Shabbat is more severe than the punishment for transgressing Yom Kippur.

Do not rest on the sabbath

Posted by: Anonymous, Minneapolis, MN on Mar 14, 2005

I cannot determine from your commentary what is the source of the quote “Whoever keeps the Shabbat according to its laws is forgiven all his sins, even if he committed the cardinal sin of idolatry.”

Whatever the source, you seem to give it comparable weight to Torah, which seems risky.

Please help me understand.

Editor's Comment

The source is the Talmud (tractate Shabbat 118b), based on Isaiah 56:2.


(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(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.
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
The first book of the Five Books of Moses. It records the story of Creation and its aftermath, and chronicles the lives of the Patriarchs.
"Ethics of our Fathers." A tractate of the Mishna (original rendition of the Oral Law) which discusses Jewish ethics and piety.
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
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.
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.