Divrei Torah on the weekly portions
A Sabbath of Sabbaths
"For six days, creative work shall be done; and the seventh day shall be holy for you as a Sabbath of Sabbaths to God…" (Shemot 35:2) .
This verse may be contrasted with the 10 commandments, which state: "For six days you can work and do all your creative work; and the seventh day is a Sabbath to God …" (Devarim 5:13-14).
Why is the passive form "creative work shall be done" used in one verse, but the active form "do all your creative work" is used in the other? Also, why in the former is the seventh day called "a Sabbath of Sabbaths", whilst in the latter it is called just "a Sabbath"?
Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai taught that when the Jews loyally observe God's will, then the gentiles do their work for them; but when the Jews are not so loyal to God, then they will have to do the work themselves (Gemara Berachot 35b).
When we have our work done for us, then the whole week is a type of Shabbat and then Shabbat becomes the "Sabbath of Sabbaths". If, however, the Jews have to work for themselves, then Shabbat is just the "Sabbath".
In this manner, Rabbi Dov Ber Rapaport answers our questions. In our Sidra when the Torah states: "For six days, creative work shall be done", it means the work will be done by others. Then Shabbat becomes "a Sabbath of Sabbaths".
By contrast, in the 10 commandments, "do all your creative work" refers to a time when the Jews are not so dedicated to God and have to work for themselves. Then the seventh day is just "a Sabbath".
Once, a great Rabbi was sitting in his study, when his students rushed in to say that the townspeople thought the Mashiach had arrived! The Rabbi opened the window and breathed the air outside. He shook his head and said: "No, the Mashiach has not yet arrived."
How did the Rabbi know for sure? Why did he need to breathe the air outside?
The great Rabbi was on such a high spiritual level, where his whole life was a whiff of the Sabbath of Sabbaths. His study smelled of the Messianic era, so he needed to sniff the air outside to know if the Mashiach had arrived.