Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Shabbat 24:13

By :  Marcus Mordecai Schwartz Director, Matthew Eisenfeld and Sara Duker Beit Midrash; Assistant Professor, Talmud and Rabbinics Posted On Jan 3, 2009 / 5769 | Talmud: Tze U-lemad

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Shabbat 24:13

Since some of the people are not artisans, and are idle all their days, such as travelers and caravaners (for they manage to avoid labor all their lives), if they were permitted to walk and speak and move [things]about as they do on all other days, they would not end up engaging in a shevita ha-nikeret (a differentiated rest).

הלכות שבת פרק כד: יג

מפני שמקצת העם אינם בעלי אומנייות, אלא בטילין כל ימיהן, כגון הטיילין ויושבי קרנות, שכל ימיהן הן שובתים ממלאכה; ואם היה מותר להלך ולדבר ולטלטל כשאר הימים, נמצא שלא שבת שביתה הניכרת. 

Often the Talmud will offer a range of related laws without expressing the coherent goal standing behind them. We have seen an example of this phenomenon over the last several weeks. We have studied a range of sources from the Talmud propounding Rabbinic expansions on Shabbat rest. We have not encountered, however, a single statement that distills the major concern standing behind these non-Torah prohibitions.

In the source above, Maimonides (who was born in Cordova, Spain, on March 30, 1135, died in Egypt on December 13, 1204, and was popularly known as the Rambam) sums up the vision of Shabbat underpinning these Rabbinic requirements in a single phrase: shevita ha-nikeret. The Rambam understands the Sages as demanding not only that we rest on Shabbat, but that the quality of that rest be different from our rest on other days. The unemployed also refrain from work, but without an elevation of the spirit. Our rest on Shabbat is to be transcendent, a taste of the world redeemed. It should consist of behaviors that are differentiated from our weekday idleness. Thus, the Sages demand that we walk, speak, and arrange our lives differently than during the week. May we find in Shabbat, a window into the world to come, a world that we build with our own behaviors.


1. Can rest be more than abstaining from labor? How?
2. What are ways that we can differentiate our Shabbat rest from our weekday rest?