From Will to Gratitude: Celebrating Shabbat with Maimonides

The V’shamru prayer says:

“For in six days the Eternal made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God ceased from work and was refreshed (vayinafash).”           Exodus 31:17

Maimonides (the great 12th century philosopher) explains:

The word vayinafash (here translated “to be refreshed”) is derived from nefesh (soul), which means it contains the meaning of intention or will. Accordingly this passage means that on the seventh day “that which God desired was accomplished; that which God wished for had come into existence.”             – Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed 1:67

What does it mean to be “refreshed?” Perhaps to take a break from work, to rest, to breathe deeply (since the word is also related to the word “breath”). According to Maimonides it’s about ceasing from wanting and wishing. All week long we are driven by the creative impulse – the desire to change things, grow things, build things, shape and mould the world around us. But on the seventh day, “that which God desired was accomplished.” On the seventh day we turn from doing to appreciating. From will to gratitude. From what we wish for, to what we are thankful for.

What are you proud to have accomplished this week?
What are you thankful for on this Shabbat?

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