Throughout the creation story we encounter the word “Tov”- good, as God reflects on His works. On the final day, God augments this sense of satisfaction with,(1:31) Tov Meod,– very good. Re- reading the account, one is left wanting more, a higher grade. Expressions like , wonderful, amazing, or awesome would surely conjure a greater appreciation, and a profound sense of responsibility.
An additional expression, however, does feature in the familiar three verses that summarize the beginning of the universe that open chapter two. Curiously it does not describe nor praise the creations of the six days, rather it is the seventh day that merits the augmentation;
וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַעֲשֽׂוֹת׃
And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy—having ceased on it from all the work of creation that God had done.
It is astonishing that the term holy is not used to describe wo/man, places, or other aspects of creation, but just (in) time!- That moment, when creation ceased. Shabbat the island in time is what warrants and clearly “creates” holiness. A.J Heschel in his exemplary work The Shabbath beautifully captures this idea;
“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
This holy day provides the opportunity to ironically leave the good or even very good of creation, and move to the Holy of creation. It affords the possibility to be, not to do. To reflect on the purpose and less the design of creation. It is the potency of this holiness that perhaps prompted or inspired the spiritual leader of Cultural Zionism Ahad Ha’am to assert that more than the Jewish people kept Shabbat, the Shabbat kept the Jewish people.
In the Lecha Dodi, sung on Friday nights the second stanza declares;
לִקְרַאת שבָּת לְכוּ וְנֵלְכָה. כִּי הִיא מְקור הַבְּרָכָה
מֵראש מִקֶּדֶם נְסוּכָה. סוף מַעֲשה בְּמַחֲשבָה תְּחִלָּה
Come let us go forth to meet the shabbat, for she is the source of all blessings.
At the very beginning, from of old, she was ordained. She was the last in production, first in thought.
Shabbat becomes the very purpose of creation that is perhaps why that process only merits a C whilst the product, shabbat, receives an A+. The expression Veyechal to complete, used to describe how God finished the work that had been undertaken, accentuates this remarkable concept. The term contains כלי a vessel and as such becomes the container for תכלית (also hidden in the word ויכל ) generally translated as … Tachlis! The Sfat Emet expounds as the very purpose, core or essence of creation. This idea is beautifully captured in the Amida of Ma’ariv for Friday evening
… אתה קדשת את יום השביעי לשמך, תכלית מעשה שמים וארץ
You sanctified the seventh day for Your Name, the conclusion, (or better core purpose) of the creation of heaven and earth.
It is the Shabbat bride that becomes the “ אֵ֥ם כָּל־חָֽי” the mother of all the living. The transformation of the relationship and intimacy of the parent rather than the creator caring for and “keeping” her children.