Work for Shabbat by Josh Strobel


In the beginning of Parshat Vayakhel, the Torah discusses Shabbat using the words, “Six days you shall work, and on the seventh day it will be for you holy…”  (35:2).  Some early authorities (including the Behag) teach that this Pasuk tells us that there is a Mitzva to work during the week.

Chazal in Masechet Avot state that one should “love work” and “chose a trade.”  Chazal praise people who perform the Mitzva of keeping themselves busy.  Furthermore, in the desert Bnai Yisrael didn’t have the food fall right on their doorsteps.  Hashem gave them the מן so they could go out and quickly pick it, implying the value of exerting effort in order to put bread on one’s table.

On the other hand, the Ohr Hachaim says that if one observes Shabbat then he will have others do the work for him, in accordance with Rabbi Yishmael’s view (see Berachot 35b).  Also, this may be why the Pasuk says “six days work may be done” (31:15) instead of stating “six days shall you do work,” implying that somebody will do work, but not necessarily you.

Rabbi Aharon Levin says that the reason the Torah here says שבת שבתון is because if one does not have a job during the week the Shabbat will be diminished instead of enlightened.  שבתון comes to teach that Shabbat becomes smaller like we see a smaller man is called an אישן rather than an איש.

Chazal in Pirkei Avot teach, “work combined with Torah is a fine thing,” and “Torah without work leads to idleness.”  Rabbi Chaim Vital adds that the week is to provide for the family but the Shabbat is holy because it is a day for Torah study.  When we keep our jobs and provide for our family, we are not only enhancing our lives, but also our Shabbat.


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