Shabbat is a day of rest … God commanded “You shall not do any work…” Six days a week a week I sit at a desk. I’m an accountant…. On Shabbat I want to do something that isn’t “work” like tending my garden and maintaining the yard. To me this is rest… Is this acceptable? I’m told NO!…. So what is work.
“Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy; six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day is a Sabbath of the Eternal your God; you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:8;-10)
The question of what constitutes “work” has been a question since the commandment was heard by the people.
To answer this question, the ancient Rabbis looked to the Torah. Based on the following, they defined work as the act of creating. In Genesis they saw “Heaven and earth, and all their components were complete. With the seventh day, God finished all the work (melakha) that He had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all work (melakha) that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day, and declared it to be holy, for it was this day that God ceased from all the work (melakha) that he had been creating.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
Specifically, the Rabbis saw that God had ceased creating… stopped working.
Then the Rabbis noted the detailed instructions God commanded the people to use in creating or “working” to build the Tabernacle. (Exodus 31:1-11) To define what constitutes work, these Rabbis listed all the functions used to build this “holy” structure in the Mishnah – Tract Shabbat 7:2. (Based on Wikipedia article “Activities prohibited on Shabbat”)
The list below comes from the Mishnah, Shabbat 7:2. It is not meant to be totally inclusive, but to provide guidelines for defining “work”. Work that is similar to those listed should also be considered prohibited.
The 39 activities prohibited on Shabbat:
- Carding/Combing wool
- Making two loops/threading needles
- Separating two threads
- Measured Cutting
- Extinguishing a fire
- Igniting a fire
- Applying the finishing touch
- Transferring between domains (carrying)
So, I guess tending my garden and mowing my lawn is prohibited on Shabbat (#1 – Plowing, #2 – Planting, and #5 – Threshing and extraction)…. Guess, I’ll just take a nap.