|Daily Life: Shabbat|
the seventh day, G-d finished all the work that He had done... G-d blessed
the seventh day, and He declared it to be holy..."
"Remember the Shabbat to
keep it holy. You can work during the six weekdays and do all your tasks.
But Shabbat is the Shabbat to G-d your Lord. Do not do anything that constitutes
work... It was during the six weekdays that G-d made the heaven, the earth,
the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the Shabbat. G-d therefore
blessed the Shabbat day and made it holy."
"You must still keep my
Shabbat. It is a sign between Me and you for all generations, to make
you realize that I, G-d, am making you holy. [Therefore] keep the Shabbat
as something sacred to you. Anyone doing work [on the Shabbat] shall be
cut off spiritually from his people... Do your work during the six week
days, but keep Shabbat holy to G-d... The Israelites shall thus keep the
Shabbat, making it a day of rest for all generations, as an eternal covenant.
It is a sign between Me and the Israelites that during the six weekdays
G-d made heaven and earth, but on Shabbat, He ceased working and withdrew
to the spiritual."
"You may do work during
the six weekdays, but Shabbat is a sacred holyday to G-d, when you shall
do no work. Wherever you may live, it is G-d's Shabbat."
"Observe the Shabbat to
keep it holy, as G-d your Lord commanded you. You can work during the
six weekdays, and do all your tasks, but Shabbat is the Shabbat to G-d
your Lord, so do not do anything that constitutes work. You must remember
that you were slaves in Egypt, when G-d your Lord brought you out with
a strong hand and an outstretched arm. It is for this reason that G-d
your Lord has commanded you to keep the Shabbat."
"The categories of work
forbidden on Shabbat... sowing, plowing... baking... weaving... tanning
hides... writing... building... kindling a fire... and transferring from
domain to domain."
Why is carrying a needle out into the street considered "work," while dragging a heavy sofa across the room is not? What work is forbidden on Shabbat?
The Torah simply commands that "Six
days work shall be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you
a holy day, a Shabbat of rest to G-d." A single example of forbidden
"work" is cited: "You shall not kindle a fire... on the
So how are we to define "work"? The Hebrew word employed by the Torah, "melacha", actually means "creative work." Thus, writing a single word is a melacha, while dragging a heavy sofa from one end of the room to the other is not.
This is in keeping with the reason that the Torah cites
for observing the Shabbat:
Obviously, G-d did not sweat and toil to create the world; His "rest" and "refreshment" on Shabbat was not relief from exertion. Rather, for six days G-d created, and on the seventh day He ceased to create. So we attest to G-d's creation of the universe by ordering our lives in the same manner: six days of creative involvement with the world, followed by a seventh day of disengagement from the material and the cessation of all physically transformative activity.
Building the Mishkan
Specifically, the Talmud enumerates 39 categories of "creative work" that are forbidden on Shabbat --- a list it derives from the fact that the Torah juxtaposes the commandment to cease work on Shabbat with its detailed instructions on how to build the mishkan, the sanctuary that served the Jewish people during their wanderings in the desert, as described in Shemot (Exodus) 31 and 35.
This is to teach us, explains the Talmud (Shabbat 49b), which activities constitute melacha: any creative act that was part of the mishkan's construction represents a category of work forbidden on Shabbat
The 39 Melachot
These 39 Melachot are divided into six (6) groups:
Group I = Numbers 1-11