“And Moshe assembled the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and he said to them: these are the things that Hashem commanded you to do. Six days work may be done, and on the seventh day it shall be holy for you, a Shabbos of resting for Hashem” (Shemos 35:1-2).
This is not the first mention of Shabbos in the Torah. Why is the theme of Shabbos repeated? Furthermore, why is Shabbos mentioned here right before the portion containing the building of the Tabernacle?
Shabbos, in a nutshell, is the reason for creation. During the week man is meant to produce. Shabbos is when the physical production of man is left aside. It is a day which Hashem imbued with sanctity. How does this sanctity manifest itself? By focusing on the spiritual accomplishments of man, his family, and his relationship with Hashem. And this is the purpose of creation. The week is the entrée which leads into Shabbos, the main course.
After the sin of Adom and Chavah (Adam and Eve), man was forced to work by the sweat of his brow (originally, man was meant to be on an even higher spiritual plane). But this is only meant to be a means to an end. The end is — after using the fruits of his labors to enable himself to get along in the world, i.e., food, shelter, etc. — for man to be able to focus on the truly important issues, such as repairing the world (Obviously, one also sanctifies Hashem’s name through honest work itself).
This “end” is symbolized by Shabbos.
By not “working” on Shabbos one acknowledges that Hashem is the creator of the world, and one shows one’s trust in Him.
How is working defined? This is where the Mishkan — Tabernacle — comes in.
The way in which we determine forbidden labors on Shabbos is by what was used in the building of the Mishkan.
This is because the mishkan represents the same thing Shabbos does — a place of sanctity.
The Raishis Chochma, an 18th century work of Jewish mysticism, explains that Shabbos is actually considered to be the source of sanctity. How so? The Rebbe from Cherynobl asks a question: how is it that man, whose essence is limited, is able to attach himself to Hashem, who is unlimited?
He explains that Shabbos is the medium in which the two meet. A day on which the emphasis is spiritual (which is unlimited) enhances the physical (limited). This is done through eating special foods and it is a special time for husband and wife to interact.
In our society, when someone asks “what do you do?”, he is really asking what kind of job you have. It is quite sad that we consider our jobs our premier occupation. What a person does should be something that contributes to the community, and to a larger sense, the world. Certainly work is required, as money does not grow on trees, but it must be kept in its proper perspective.
On Shabbos it is preferable not to even speak of business. This is because we as people are so much more than that, and on this important day, when we pledge allegiance to Hashem, we try to do His work, with the confidence he will take care of us.