One of the Ten Commandments, mentioned in Parshas Yisro, is the commandment to keep Sabbath. The verses say (20:9-10), “Six days you shall labor and complete all your work. And the seventh day shall be Sabbath for your God, you shall not do any work, etc.”
What does the Torah mean by saying, “You shall complete all your work?” What if you did not complete all your work?
Rashi on Parshas Yisro explains that the verse is teaching us the attitude we should have on this day. Regardless of whether all our work is actually complete or not, on Sabbath, it should be considered in our eyes as if it is all complete. Our minds should not be occupied with thoughts of work.
This is not merely a nice aspect of Sabbath to be appreciated if it happens on its own. The Tur (Orach Chaim, 306) rules that a person is instructed to actually put conscious effort into controlling his thoughts to be in such a manner. The Tur writes that this is included in the Mitzvah (commandment) of making Sabbath pleasurable. Just as the Torah wants us to have physical rest on this day, the Torah instructs us to relax our minds as well. For there is no better way to enjoy this day than by having a relaxed mind, devoid of concerns over our jobs or income.
Rabbi Yoffe was once walking in the street on Sabbath when he heard a person he was passing blurt out, “Dirty Jew!” This person didn’t give the impression of someone looking to pick a fight, and Rabbi Yoffe decided to approach him ask politely, “If you don’t mind sir, I was just wondering what provoked you to make that comment? I’m not insulted, I’m just curious to know what it is about me that caused you to say that?”
The gentile then replied, “You Jews, you walk around leisurely every Saturday, all dressed up and festive, as if you have not a worry in the world. You must all have overstuffed bank accounts which allow you to be this way. I, on the other hand, never have that kind of peace of mind! I’m always worried about how I’m going to pay my mortgage and all my other bills. That’s why I said that.”
Rabbi Yoffe then thanked the man for his explanation, and walked away astonished, with renewed inspiration, thinking to himself, “Wow! That’s exactly the way it should be! Yes, we too have bills to pay and may be concerned all week about making ends meet. But on Sabbath, it all gets pushed aside. On Sabbath, it’s as if we have millions in the bank. All worries fall aside and we focus on enjoying the special day together with our Creator.”
It is not easy to forsake the anxieties which plague our minds throughout the week. But this is the only way to truly get involved in the spirit of Sabbath. We need to disconnect our minds from all business matters in order to relish in the special spirit of this day. Sabbath is a day to focus on spiritual matters, and enjoy our connection to God. Sabbath is about reminding ourselves that God is in complete control of the world. When we contemplate the fact that God is in complete control of our livelihood, it will be easier to let go of our concerns on this day.
Parshas Yisro teaches us that the way to do this is by viewing our work as if it is complete. As far as we should be concerned, there is no more to be done. Relinquishing thoughts of business matters affords us the opportunity to truly relax and enjoy this day of rest. By having a relaxed mindset, we can recharge our spiritual reserves and focus on enjoying our connection to God. Sabbath contains so much joy we can tap into. Why would we want to feel stressed and give up the joy of such a Mitzvah?
Parshas Yisro by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (email@example.com)