Parashath Barehshith 

"ויברך אלהים את יום יהשביע ויקדש אתו כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו אשר ברא אלהים לעשות"

Wayvarakh A-lohim ath yom hasvi`i wayqadesh otho ki vo shavath mikol
mala'khto ashar bara A-lohim la`asoth" 

"And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it God rested from all His work which He created 'to do' " (Bereshith/Genesis 2:3)

This ends the first section of the first Torah portion.  It speaks of an act
of sanctification, in which God sets apart the seventh day from every other
day of the week by resting.  However, this leaves us with a couple of perplexing questions: Does God actually need to rest?  The simple answer to this question is no. According to Rabbi Saadia Ban Yoseph zs'l: "it was not relaxation from any kind of motion or exertion. It constituted merely the discontinuance of the production of what was to be created."
(Treatise II, Ch. 12, Emunot v'daot).

But then one must ask, if God does not need to rest, why did He? 

By resting on yom haShabbath, haShem sets an example for us to follow. The acts of creation are mirrored by the acts of creating the mishkhan, and from that we learn which melakhoth are forbidden on yom haShabbath (i.e. haShem rested from His acts of creation, therefore, we rest from our acts of creation, as it is written, "for on it, haShem your G-D rested" [I apologize for the paraphrase].

It is interesting to note that the *only* time in the entire Miqra that mentions haShem resting is when He is meqadhesh yom hashvi`i, designating it as yom haShabbath.  This unique and special account lends extra qedushah (holiness) to yom haShabbath.

The act of the resting of the  Divine was a means by which the Holy One, blessed is He, provided a definite difference between the holy and the profane.  When we make the transition from shabbath to the rest of the week we pray, "hamavdil ben qodhash lahol" [who seperates between the holy and the profane].  But why did the Holy One decide to make an opposition between two foces (tumah [impirity] and tahor [purity]) in the week?  The key to understanding this is in the last word that we see in this section, "la`asoth" [to do].

What is the meaning of God creating "la`asoth?"  I would like to go to the
Kuzari of R. Yehudah haLewi and the Darakh haShem of the Ramh"l [R. Moshah
Hayyim Luzatto].

According to R. Yehudah haLewi (sefar haKuzari, Sha'ar Teshi`i, Shabath),
the act of doing on shabbath is a cleansing of mind, spirit, and body:
"During the course of the week, however, the soul becomes so sullied by the
accumulated pollution of its worldly contacts, that it can only be cleansed
by consecrating one whole day to the service of God.  This one day,
shabbath, not only provides the body with rest from the strain of the six
days of toil, refreshing it for the days to come; it gives the soul a chance
to regain its loss and to recuperate from the 'ilness' it suffered during
the previous week, preparing it to withstand the onslaught of the future.
This is similar to the practice of Iyyov [Job] who brought a sacrifice each
week on behalf of his sons, saying 'It may be that my sons have sinned'
(Iyyov/Job 1:5)."

The Ramh"l focuses on another aspect of what it means "to do" on shabbath,
which is to work towards the purpose of the final ge'ulah [redemption]
(Darakh haShem, 4:7:2-4).  R. Aryah Kaplan, in his notes on Darakh haShem
states that shabbath is a foretaste of Olam haBa [the World to Come].  How
is this so?  The Ramh"l teaches us that everything runs in a cycle of
sevens.  Just as the seventh day of the week is a perfection and a rest, so
is the seventh age of man.  The obligations of shabbath are that which allow
the Jew to attain a lofty spiritual level through which we can have a
foretaste of Olam haBa.  The concept of mela'khoth, the activities forbidden
on shabbath, is the means by which man can be free of the mundane
attatchments which keep him from attaining the extra spirituality and
sanctity of shabbath.  Also, as an aid in reaching the lofty heights of
shabbath, we have alongside the mela'khoth different precepts for kibudh
shabbath [honoring of the sabbath].  For example, some have adopted the
practice of welcoming the shabbath with festive songs such as Lekha Dodhi.  
Our meals are lavish.  And in the ceremony of qidush, we proclaim the glorious
sanctity of this day.

It is through these actions, as brought down by R. Yehudah haLewi and the
Ramh"l that we are able to fulfil the obligation of "la`asoth" and elevate
ourselves to a temporary return to paradise and prepare ourselves for the
final redemption of man in the days of Mashiyah - may he come speedily and
in our days, and let us say, amen.

For a Demonstration of Temani Ta'amim of Barehshith, click here:

For a more midRaShYcal (Temani) analysis of the Shabboth, click here: