Exodus 31:15:

שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י שַׁבַּ֧ת שַׁבָּת֛וֹן קֹ֖דֶשׁ לַיהוָ֑ה כָּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֧ה מְלָאכָ֛ה בְּי֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖ת מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת׃

Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death

The above verse states working in the passive voice. But Exodus 20:10 states working in the active voice:

וְי֙וֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔֜י שַׁבָּ֖֣ת ׀ לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֗יךָ לֹֽ֣א־תַעֲשֶׂ֣֨ה כָל־מְלָאכָ֡֜ה אַתָּ֣ה ׀ וּבִנְךָֽ֣־וּ֠בִתֶּ֗ךָ עַבְדְּךָ֤֨ וַאֲמָֽתְךָ֜֙ וּבְהֶמְתֶּ֔֗ךָ וְגֵרְךָ֖֙ אֲשֶׁ֥֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶֽ֔יךָ

but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;

Whay is thre a difference in these verses between using the active vs. passive verbs. What messages / meanings are to be derived from these uses? .

  • To preclude the objection of ta'aseh velo min ha'asui - one who has his work done for him? Otherwise, we would say that the Torah requires one to perform melachah during the week, even if he as no inherent need to do so... Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:42
  • @IsaacKotlicky This may be one (unpopular?) interpretation. I don't recall where I read this, but, several rabbanim stated that the active voice in the 2nd verse cited is actually a command stating that one MUST work all 6 days of the week. (Not as is common in U.S., among many other countries, where Sunday is a non-working day.) Of course, it doesn't state what type of work or how many hours. But some work MUST be done each day. Of course, by "work" it means "melacha" as defined in the 39 categories. So, people are doing this, anyway. I.e. - one cannot have 2 Shabbatot in the week.
    – DanF
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:48
  • Check out the Mekhilta to the similar wording in Shemot 12 (Pischa 9 hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40607&st=&pgnum=39 or hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=33719&st=&pgnum=63 or hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=38109&st=&pgnum=32). (Cf. Pesachim 21b)
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:01
  • 1
    @IsaacKotlicky Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/29218/1713
    – Daniel
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


Rabbi Sorotzkin says that since this command was given to the entire community of Bnai Yisrael, it is not only each individual that must not do work, but that the community should ensure that no work is done in violation of Shabbos and that all needed work has been completed during the six days of the week.

Chabad.org says that a person only deserves to have the "shabbas rest" after he has first worked to build the world and serve Hashem. Only when that has been done, can he the "rest" on Shabbos.

Thus, we learn that all "work" must have been completed before a person can "rest".One must prepare for the Shabbos and be ready. He must anticipate what will be needed in the future.

The Torah, however, sets the working week first, to be followed by the day of rest, the holy Shabbat. "Six days shall work be done" and only then "the seventh day is a Shabbat of solemn rest" -- the exact reverse of general practice. The precedence of labor before rest indicates that the purpose of man on earth is not to while away his time indolently, but to work for his spiritual as well as his own material welfare and for that of his community.

My son cited from the Lekach Tov (quoting Rav Ganzfried who wrote the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) at his son's Sholom Zachar Parshas Vayakhel 5776 the following explanation.

Another possibility is shown in Vayakhel in order to teach that no matter what people do, the actual "work" (accomplishment) comes from Hashem.

And so the Torah tells us, 6 days shall work be done; “te’aseh melacha” work shall be done, in the passive voice, because they were all to understand that it was God who was doing the work, and that they shouldn’t take credit for it

He also cited the Netziv that during the building of the Mishkan, the Bnei Yisrael were machmir that even work done on Friday was completed fully before Shabbos. That is, that not only the active work was completed, but that even the sitting and completing the work passively (when it would normally have been allowed) was finished before Shabbos. An example would be letting wool sit in the dye vat over Shabbos (when already at the point that it would have been allowed according to halacha) was not done.

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