There are many ideas in Shabbat, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point of a process. The week is a period of working, building; Shabbat is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated. It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed. Whenever the Torah mentions Shabbat it first mentions six days of work – the idea is that Shabbats occurs only after, because of, the work.
The pleasure of the freedom and relaxation which accompany and end-point are the direct results of the satisfaction of knowing that the job has been done. That is the real happiness, the happiness of achievement. Shabbat teaches that all work must be directed to a goal. Travelling must be towards the traveler’s destination – if not, it is merely wandering. This message alone would justify weekly repetition – we need constant awareness that each of our activities must be aimed at meaningful growth.
By Rabbi Akiva Tatz, JLE UK