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Shabbat - The Ultimate Day of Rest

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

For six days, work may be performed, but on the seventh day, it is a complete rest day (shabbat shabbaton), a holy occasion; you shall not perform any work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places. (Leviticus 23:11)

The Torah refers to Shabbat as shabbat shabbaton. The word “shabbat” means rest. Therefore,  this double language can be interpretated to mean a complete rest or a rest of rests. Why is Shabbat referred to as a complete rest or a rest of rests?

Our commentators offer many explanations, but we will focus on Ramban, Sforno, and Rashi. Ramban (Leviticus 23, 24) explains that it is possible to refrain from doing the creative activities (Melacha) that are forbidden on Shabbat and still not have a restful Shabbat. One could, for example, spend Shabbat rearranging heavy furniture, reorganizing one’s merchandise, and involved in other similar labor-intensive activities without technically transgressing the laws of Shabbat. For this reason, the Torah uses the double language shabbat shabbaton to impress on us that Shabbat should be a day of rest and not a day of work and bother.

Seforno (Exodus 31, 15) makes the very same point as the Ramban and adds “In order that it will be a day sanctified to God, so that a person will be free of all worldly fleeting concerns and involve themselves in eternal spiritual matters for the honor of God.” The Ramban and Sforno teach us that Shabbat should be a day of complete rest, dedicated to spirituality and the service of God.

Rashi (Exodus 31, 15), on the words shabbat shabbaton, comments: “…a reposeful rest, not a casual rest.” Perhaps the meaning of this is that, while during the week we take casual rests, on Shabbat we have an entire continuous day of rest. I think this is the secret of Shabbat. Complete Shabbat observance requires refraining from the use of electronics, phones, and other worldly activities for a continuous 25-hours. Our minds experience a true vacation and rest from the worldly endeavors and distractions that constantly consume us. This allows us to enter a more spiritual consciousness, to contemplate the meaning of life, and to focus on spiritual development and coming closer to God.  Let us use this gift of Shabbat and dedicate more time on Shabbat toward a reposeful rest and a spiritually uplifting experience!