Why the Work Week? by Isaac Shulman


In this week’s Parashah, the Torah reminds Bnei Yisrael about the commandment of Shabbat.  The Torah states, “Sheishet Yamim Tei’aseh Melachah UVaYom HaShevii Yihyeh Lachem Kodesh Shabbat Shabbaton LaShem,” “For six days, work shall be done, and the seventh day shall by holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem” (Shemot 35:2).  An obvious question can be raised.  If the Torah does not waste any words, why does it say that work shall be done for six days? How is that relevant to the observance of Shabbat on the seventh day?

An answer is that the Torah is stressing the need to work during the week and not be lazy.  In order to fully appreciate Shabbat on the seventh day, one must work during the week.  If every day were a day of “rest,” Shabbat would not be the special day that it is.  If, however, one were to work rigorously during the week, he would experience Shabbat in a much more meaningful way.

This is seen in a similar manner regarding Hashem’s creation of the world.  Why doesn’t Hashem create the world in one day and rest the next, or even create it in one second and rest the next?  Could Hashem not create the world in any manner that he wished?

Hashem is teaching us the importance of working before the rest.  He does not simply get the job done quickly, but instead invests the appropriate amount of time and then chooses to rest.  This lesson is extremely important to understand that effort must come before rest, and only then can one be efficient each and every day.

At the same time, however, the Torah is teaching us that for six days, one can work, but not on the seventh.  The Torah is teaching that one does not need to be constantly working.  One might think that the economic loss for not working one out of every seven days is high, but the Torah is teaching that one needs rest and it will not be more efficient to work every day of every week.  While earning a living is quite important, it is also extremely important to take a day each week to reflect on one’s life.  It is not healthy for a person to go through life with the same routine without thinking about what he or she is doing.

The Torah, therefore, prevents the very important message that people need to put in their own effort before they can take rest, but also that people do need to take rest in order to prevent living life as a robot.  Shabbat represents the perfect balance between those two ideas.

-Adapted from a Devar Torah by Rabbi Shalom Rosner

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