Bereishis: The Lesson of Shabbos
By Rabbi Yonah Burr
ויכלו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם. ויכל אלקים ביום השביעי מלאכתו אשר עשה וישבת ביום השביעי מכל מלאכתו אשר עשה.
The Heavens and the Earth and everything they contain were thus completed; and Hashem completed on the seventh day the work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all the work which He had done
We are all familiar with the apparent contradiction in the possuk- on the one hand, the Torah tells us that Hashem completed on the seventh day the work that needed to be done, while on the other hand, the Torah tells us that Hashem ‘rested’ on the seventh day!
Rashi, citing the medrash gives us the answer: “after everything was already completed, what still needed to be done? Rest! Hashem came and created the concept of ‘rest’.
Seemingly, ‘rest’ is the absence of activity, not something that we would call a positive creation. What exactly does this medrash mean, and what are we actually celebrating through our keeping of the Shabbos?
The Beis Halevi offers a beautiful insight:
In reality, Hashem never rests at all. As we say every morning in our tefillah, המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, Hashem is constantly renewing the creation. It is axiomatic that absolutely nothing can exist independently of Hashem; the world requires the constant influence and intervention by Hashem to be maintained. The fact that the world as we know it seems constant, is not as a result that it existed yesterday, rather it requires a constant renewal and recreation to exist today.
The Chofetz Chaim Zt”l once said, that all modern inventions and technology can be used to help us understand Torah truths; the telephone teaches us that it is possible that something spoken here can be heard half way around the world. Recording devices and cameras can teach us that all of our deeds and words are recorded, and so on.
Imagine an image of a building on a computer screen- it seems solid, constant and real. But we know it is only an image constantly being projected onto the screen- the moment the influence stops, the picture will simply vanish and cease to exist!
So it is with the entire creation- to us it seems constant and permanent, but in reality it requires the continuous influence of Hashem for it to be maintained.
Explains the Beis Halevi, the six days of creation were about creating something new; from that point on, Hashem is still creating, but only creating that which was there before. To us it looks constant, and we don’t perceive the renewal, but it is there. The six days of creation are called ‘work’ while the constant renewal is called ‘rest’.
This is what we are declaring and celebrating with the Shabbos! We are testifying that Hashem is constantly there, running everything from behind the scene.
Our job is to take the lesson of Shabbos with us into the week, and constantly seek Hashem’s presence in our everyday lives!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!