This week we read Parshas Vayakhel. The Parsha begins with the commandment to the Jewish people that they keep Shabbos. The placing of this commandment before the instruction of the building of the Tabernacle is a very clear message from Hashem. Even though we want to build the Temple, as noble a mission as that may be, we can’t break the Shabbos to do that. The importance of Shabbos is so paramount, that we can’t violate it even for the best of reasons.
When the Torah introduces Shabbos to us, it says “Six days work shall be done, and on the Seventh day you shall rest.” (Exodus 35:2) Why does the Torah have to tell us that six days we can work before telling us about Shabbos. Obviously, if the only day we have to rest is on Shabbos, then the rest of the week we can work? More perplexing, why does it say “work shall be done”? Wouldn’t it make more sense to write “you shall do work”?
One of the classic answers given is, the Torah wants to address one of the biggest issues with the commandment of Shabbos. How can we expect a businessman to simply close up shop on Shabbos? What will be with all the money he could have been earning? Can we expect him to simply leave everything alone, all the machines to sit idle? The Torah says, before you think about that, think about how you earn money during the six days of work. Do you really think you are the one who causes success? Who decides if the roof will cave in? Who decides if your workers will show up? Does anyone really think that they control what goes on in this world?
The Torah therefore says work shall be done. Realize that the work that does happen on these six days is all from the hand of Hashem. If He tells you to rest on Shabbos, your livelihood will not suffer. He is the one who decides what you will or won’t earn anyway.
The story is told that the great Chofetz Chaim once spoke to the owner of a large factory, and impressed upon him the importance of keeping Shabbos and closing down his business. The person he spoke to was very moved by his words, and committed to close his business on Shabbos. However, he made one request of the Chafetz Chaim. “I just need a few weeks to put my affairs in order. Just give me permission to do that for a few weeks and then everything will be fully in accordance with the laws of Shabbos.” The Chofetz Chaim held the man’s hand for a few minutes, and then responded. “If the Shabbos was mine, don’t you think I would gladly give it to you? However, it isn’t. It’s the Almighty’s, and He hasn’t given permission to break it even once.” The sincerity and conviction of the Chofetz Chaim made such a deep impression upon this person that from then on he became a Sabbath observer for the rest of his life!!