When commanding us to observe the Shabbos (Sabbath), the Torah says, "On
six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a
day of complete rest for G-d; whoever does work on it shall be put to
death." (Shemos/Exodus 35:2) Just as G-d created the world in six days
and rested on the seventh, similarly we emulate Him by "creating" for six
days and resting on the seventh. The Torah's "work" is not an issue of
effort, exertion, or difficulty. The Talmud explains to us (Shabbos 70a)
that the work the Torah prohibits are the 39 categories of creative labor
utilized in building the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Why did G-d tell us
specifically to refrain from the activities of building the Mishkan in
order to emulate him?
Rabbi Chaim Friedlander (1) expounds that when G-d created the universe He
created something from nothing. There had previously been no physical
properties, but with creation G-d generated them. In contrast, when we
create physical edifices we are creating something from something. We are
merely manipulating the preexisting physical properties to generate a new
functionality. But mankind, in its own way, is also capable of creating
something from nothing. When the Jews built the Mishkan, they used
physical devices and created a spiritual home for the Divine. The process
of building the Mishkan is the paradigm of how we can use the physical
world to foster spiritual growth.
We say in our Shabbos prayers that the Shabbos is the purpose of creation.
On Shabbos we cease from our creative activities and focus on the spiritual
goals behind them, just like G-d ceased His mundane creating and focused on
the purpose behind it all. Shabbos, therefore, is a time to focus on the
creative activities we normally perform throughout the week, and to think
about the real reasons for doing them. In this way the Shabbos can affect
all of our physical activities throughout the week, and turn them into
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) Mashgiach/Spiritual Mentor of Ponovezh Yeshiva in B'nai Brak, close
disciple of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler