Spoils of the Sabbath

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayakel-spoils-of-the-sabbath/

Netziv Exodus: Vayakel

Spoils of the Sabbath

“What is without periods of rest will not endure.” –Ovid

A day of rest has become a fairly common phenomenon. This was not always so. For most people, the weekly day off is seen as a time to relax, to have fun, to bond with family and friends and to enjoy life after a hard work-week.

However, there are two types of people who don’t enjoy the Sabbath. The first are those that feel the economic distress that prompts them to continue working. The second are workaholics. However, Jewish tradition advises them to take a break as well. Rest is not optional – it’s a requirement.

The Netziv on Exodus 35:2 takes the business of rest seriously and explains that not only are those who work on the Sabbath committing a sin, but that they will see no gain, no satisfaction, no benefit from their work. He brings an unusual example from the Israelite conquest of the Canaanite city of Jericho more than 3,000 years ago. According to tradition, the city was conquered on the Sabbath and the Jewish leader, Joshua, disciple of Moses, commanded the Jewish army not to touch any of the spoils of war.

One man however, didn’t listen to Joshua and did abscond some of the Jericho treasure. The next Israelite battle was a disaster as a direct result of the infraction of the lone Israelite. The Sabbath-taken treasure was cursed and affected the entire nation. The man who had taken the treasure was subsequently killed together with his entire family.

According to the Netziv (and many others), Sabbath-gained gains will do no good, and may even be cursed.

Workers beware.

Shabbat Shalom,



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