Parshat Pekudei: Working for free

Based on the writings of Rav Natan of Breslov

Shemot 40:17: “The Tabernacle was set up.”

Rebbe Nachman teaches us that ‘we work for free, and we eat for free’ – and Parshat Pekudei is the first time we really see this phenomena laid out in the Torah.

While it may look to us that it’s our careers and our businesses that are making us the money and bringing us the wealth, Rav Natan tells us that truly, this is an illusion:

“We need to believe with complete faith that we’re actually doing nothing [when we work]. We are just fulfilling G-d’s mystical desire to engage in business or trade. For there are deep secrets and great mystical intentions subsumed within all business activity and craft.”

So while it seems to us that the six days that we work, and perform melacha (the 39 types of work that are prohibited on the Shabbos) are what’s bringing in the bounty, really the opposite is true:

the one day when we cease working actually brings the spiritual bounty and success down to the rest of the week.

We’re not really doing anything

Once we grasp this principle, we start to see how ‘we work for free, and we eat for free’ – it’s not really us who is engaging in business activities, and sealing the deal, and it’s not really us who are providing for our needs via our own efforts. G-d is providing everything for us.

In the same way that the Tabernacle was ‘set up’ by itself, it will increasingly appear as though our work and our commercial activities are occurring ‘by themselves’.

Rav Natan tells us:

“All the melacha  of the Tabernacle and the Temple miraculously occurred by itself: the workers merely intended to perform the work.”

The Tabernacle was set up, the Menorah was made, the Temple was built – but the Torah doesn’t tell us who actually performed all these deeds, and everything is phrased passively.

Through observing the holy Shabbos, “we merit to have the work performed by itself. For the main vitality of the six work days and all the work performed on them is provided by the cessation of activity and rest on the Shabbos.”

As it says in Tractate Brachot 35b: “When the Jewish people do G-d’s will, then their work will be performed by others.”


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