There is only one being created that could appreciate and grasp this concept – man. Every other being survives on instinct and nature and cannot realize the transiency of the temporal world around them. Only man, endowed with cognition, can appreciate the message of Shabbos. One who has the ability to ponder and comprehend the significance and purpose of life can understand that this world is merely a vessel, and a means to a greater existence.
The ability to appreciate the message and significance of Shabbos was essentially created on the sixth day when G-d created man with intellect and the ability to think. Without the creation of man, the message of Shabbos could not have been understood. Shabbos essentially caused there to be a drastic shift in the purpose of creation and that change was only appreciated in the mind of man.
The pasuk in Parshas Vayakhel states, (35:3) “You shall not ignite a fire in any of your surroundings on the day of Shabbos.” The Zohar notes that this prohibition is not merely a warning against igniting physical fires but also for igniting “emotional fires.” On Shabbos one is obligated to reach such a state of contentment that he cannot be moved to anger.
On the words of the pasuk, (31:15) “For six days work shall be done and the seventh day is a day of complete rest, it is sacred to Hashem,” Rashi comments that complete rest implies, “מנוחת מרגוע ולא מנוחת עראי – A permanent resting; not a temporary resting.” Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt’l (Sichos Mussar 5731, mama’ar 12) explains that a “temporary resting” refers to one who is not permanently altered by the Shabbos experience. Although he observes Shabbos, and perhaps even sanctifies Shabbos, it does not have a lasting effect on him but fades away with the puff of the extinguished havdalah candle. A “permanent resting” however, refers to a complete transformation, wherein the Shabbos experience has such a profound affect that one emerges a more elevated person. He becomes invigorated and revitalized with a newfound ability to confront the challenges of the week with tranquility and serenity.
How do such transformations occur? It begins in one’s mind; it stems from having one’s priorities straight. Throughout the week one feels that the labors he engages in are an end unto themselves. One becomes tense with pressures of deadlines, angry because of missed opportunities and failed endeavors, and anxious with the uncertainties of tomorrow. But then Shabbos begins! The sun sets on Friday afternoon and the world is enveloped with holiness and sanctity. Suddenly, one is reminded that all of his weekly activities are secondary. He remembers that this world is merely a receptacle, a medium through which one can achieve holiness and ulterior purpose. That realization which begins in the recesses of one’s mind eventually manifests itself in one’s conduct and how he lives his life. It begins with an understanding of what is the vessel and what it the content.
As the sun sets on Friday and darkness descends on the world, suddenly, there is light!