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GIVE IT A REST

by Rabbi David Kapenstein    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"For six days work shall be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of rest for Hashem" (Exodus 35:2).

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"For six days work shall be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of rest for Hashem" (Exodus 35:2).

Rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried, compiler of the Concise Code of Jewish Law (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch), points out that in describing the work week, the Torah does not actively say that you shall do work for six days. Rather, the Torah passively says that for six days work shall be done. Why does Hashem express this directive in this passive manner and what is its significance for us? Surely if our work is "getting done" it is we who are doing it.

Rabbi Gantzfried sees in this nuance of the Torah's wording a hint to the idea that observing Shabbat is a powerful statement of one's personal faith in Hashem. The Torah states that during the six days of the week, our work "gets done", not that we do it. That is to say that we certainly exert effort; however, ultimately our success or failure is not in our hands but in Hashem's. Resting from work on Shabbat is the strongest statement we can make asserting this principle.

By resting on Shabbat, one is in essence saying that my actions do not ultimately determine the success of my livelihood. I am able to devote one day a week to Hashem in prayer, song, Torah study, and celebration, without being concerned that this will jeopardize my income. Someone who has not yet attained this trust in Hashem will undoubtedly feel that he cannot give up his Saturday income or look for a job that will not necessitate working on Shabbat. This person will feel that his salary is a direct result of his work and he needs to look out for himself.

Some classic Torah commentators find a hint to this concept in our age-old custom of eating fish as an entrée on Shabbat. Some fish feed off of smaller fish. As such, the larger fish pursues the smaller fish and swallows it up. Therefore, it would stand to reason that when one opens the belly of the larger fish, one would find the smaller fish inside with its tail facing the tail of the larger fish and its mouth facing the mouth of the larger fish. Nevertheless, upon examination one will find that this is not the case. In fact, the smaller fish is normally found in the larger fish with its mouth facing the tail of the fish that swallowed it up.

From this we learn that although the larger fish pursued its prey with all of its ability, in the end it swallowed it up because the smaller fish swam into its mouth. The same is true in our relationship with Hashem. We work hard for six days to provide for the needs of our family, but Hashem is the one who rewards our efforts by delivering our livelihood into our hands, just like the small fish swims into the mouth of the larger fish. Eating fish on Shabbat is meant to remind us of this idea, that it is Hashem who provides our daily sustenance.

Our rabbis tell us that Shabbat is the source of our blessing for prosperity during the week. Through proper observance of Shabbat, our families and ourselves are blessed with more than just our needs. We are given the proper perspective with which we can appreciate our multitude of gifts from Hashem.

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Rabbi David Kapenstein is the director of development at the Torah Day School of Atlanta.

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