B’reishit, Chapter 2: God continues to create the world

God rested on the seventh day of creation.  The Bible then summarizes the story of creation, specifying the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.  Then, God created man and warned him not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.   He then created all the animals and Adam named them.  After noting that it is not good for man to live alone without a human companion, God created the first woman.

The first words of this chapter are traditionally recited every Friday night as part of the kiddush before the Shabbat dinner.

ויכלו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם. ויכל אלהים ביום השביעי מלאכתו אשר עשה וישבת ביום השביעי מכל מלאכתו .אשר עשה. ויברך אלהים את יום השביעי ויקדש אתו כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו אשר ברא אלהים לעשות

And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made.

Humans have forever been concerned with productivity, whether it was hunting or planting, managing the home, or working in a factory or on the trading floor.  With these words, God sets an example for all people to follow.  It is imperative, for our sanity and survival, to take time regularly to rest from our activity and appreciate what we have: to put a stop to the productivity.

Rabbi Abraham Joshual Heschel wrote in The Sabbath:
The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

Our time is finite, and if we do not see it as imperative (as a mitzvah) to take time and rest, we risk losing our time to do that.  God understood that necessity, and so set the example Himself; after He created the world and was so productive, He took a significant portion of time to rest.  Later in the Bible, He will make this an explicit commandment to the Jewish people.  Indeed, it’s the idea of the Sabbath which draws so many people to Judaism in the first place.  It’s that day of rest and abstention from productive work that effectively forces families to get together weekly, sit down for long meals, and spend the day with each other’s company.  As Ahad Ha’am famously said on this point, “More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.”  

Rabbi Roy Feldman

B’reishit, Chapter 2: God continues to create the world

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