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Day of Rest

In today’s unstable economic times, more and more of us are feeling financial pressure: to find a stable job that pays a reasonable salary, and to hold on to it in the face of cutbacks and layoffs. Just showing up to work and expecting to collect a paycheck is not enough. We need to use every strategy at our disposal to stay one step ahead of the game – to figure out where the market might be heading and what we need to do to stay afloat.

In the light of these circumstances, this week’s parshah, Vayakhel, has a subversive message. Moses relays G-d’s commandment to the people: “Six days a week your work shall be done, and the seventh day will be holy unto you, a day of rest to the L-rd.”

In order for Shabbat to be kept properly, as the Torah commands, there must be six days of preparation during the rest of the week. However, the Torah does not say, “For six days you shall do your work.” It does not say, “Work out a strategy to stay ahead of the game and ensure your financial security.”

What the verse does say is, “For six days your work shall be done.” A curiously passive expression! Complete your work, but without stress, without excessive toil. Just let the work be done.

This is a heavenly blessing to the Jewish people. Our sages say, “When the Jews do the work of the L-rd [serving G-d] their work is done by others.” They do not need to toil excessively, as their work will be done.

This is also a lesson for us on the proper approach to a day’s work. Not to say that we do not need to look for a job or perform our work meticulously. We must put in whatever effort is required to support ourselves and our families. However, there is no need to throw ourselves in to this work, heart, mind and soul. A verse in Psalms states, “The toil of your hands you shall eat – and it will be fortunate and good for you.” What is good for mankind? To eat of the toil of your hands, but not the toil of your mind. Our greatest sages in history performed manual labor, while their minds were occupied with Torah thoughts. They used every spare moment to serve G-d, for prayer and good deeds.

When we do our work in this fashion, G-d will cause His blessings to rest upon the work of our hands. It is not our work, after all, but G-d’s blessing that brings riches. Our work is a vessel through which G-d sends His blessing. When we invest the bulk of our talents, effort and energy into serving G-d, our work will be done on its own and bring ample livelihood.

Working six days a week in this manner also aids us in keeping Shabbat properly. Shabbat is one day that we can forget our weekly woes and focus only on the Divine. If we are consumed with financial worries, though, we will find it that much harder to let go one day a week and experience a truly blessed day of rest. Work in this manner is a fitting preparation for the days of Moshiach, when “the sole occupation of mankind will be to know G-d,” and all our days will be Shabbat and eternal rest.

 

 


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