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Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tevet 3, 5782
Question
Rabbi Shvat, After many weeks of studying, I have difficulty understanding Hashem’s single meaning ‘ceasing all His work of creation’ (Genesis 22:4) on the seventh day with the mishna’s 39 specifics of work activities. Did Hashem cease all of His continuous work other than creation on the seventh day? Definition: melacha, daily occupation work to create a living for the family, as in: (n-f) Hebrew - occupation, work, business. Genesis 22:3 -4, "And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done." Your perspective on this question is greatly appreciated.
Answer
God obviously didn't stop His continuous involvement, for the world couldn't exist even for one second without it. We obviously don't understand what exactly went on there in God's creation, yet we have some indications which I will share. The actual definition of "melacha" (literally: creative work) cannot be learned from the dictionary but rather from the details of Torah law. "Melacha" is defined as the 39 creative-acts which are prohibited on Shabbat, which are parallel to those 39 which were used to construct the Mishkan. The Mishkan (Holy Tabernacle in the desert, after the exodus from Egypt), just as the Jerusalem Temple afterwards, is a form of “tzimtzum”, where, God designates one place to, as if it were, “concentrate” His Divine Presence, to fulfill our need to “meet” with Him. This corresponds to the kabbalistic idea according to which God did a similar “tzimtzum” [= "concentration"] when He created the world, as if it were, “concentrating” Himself to appear in a limited place. Accordingly, we understand why these are precisely the prohibited Melachot, for Shabbat brings us back to taste the pre-creation Godliness which abounded before that original “tzimtzum”. A study of those 39 show that Melachot are the creative acts of man's most basic needs (as opposed to animals), summarized in the topic-headings: cooking of food, making clothing and shelter from wool/flax, leather or building material. The Kabbala teaches that the physical world is meant to mirror and help understand the metaphysical/spiritual world, so accordingly, these are the 3 most basic necessities for our spiritual human ("above-animal") life. Human food corresponds to spiritual food [=Torah study nourishes us]; human clothing= the mitzvot [commandments, good actions] which constantly envelope us and are likened to God's covering/attire to enable us to see His "form"=actions (for we can't actually see Him), so that we can copy them (imitateo Dei); and shelter= to get close and be protected by God. In short, God's Creation, as if it were, physically concentrates and represents: Torah study, good actions and getting close to God, which are the spiritual necessities, and their physical correspondent, which comprise human life in this world.
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