Parshas Vayakhel- Pekudei
Exodus 35:2 "Six days your work may be done, but the seventh day should be holy for you, a day of complete rest for G-d....."
Why does the Torah write this verse in the more passive form that "your work may be done," and not simply write, "Six days, you may do your work...?" It almost implies that the work will get done by itself. Furthermore, why does the Torah even mention that we can do work for six days? It could just mention the restriction of work on the seventh day?
Rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried has a very interesting approach to answer these questions:
How do we view the reason for our material success? Is it strictly due to our hard work and resourcefulness or is it due to G-d's decree that He makes every year on Rosh HaShana? Rabbi Gantzfried says that our success stems from G'd's blessing and decree for us. There is a requirement, however, that we have to work to earn a living. We have to expend the normal effort needed to sustain ourselves. The fruits of our labor however, for better or for worse, are not the result of the actual labor that we did, but rather reflect the heavenly decree that has been set for us.
If a person, however, views his success as directly coming from his long hours on the job, it will be very difficult for him to keep Shabbos. Imagine his worry and anxiety the whole Shabbos as he contemplates how much money he is losing from not working. A person with such a mindset cannot truly have a restful and peaceful Shabbos. To such a person the Torah says, "Don't think that you are responsible for your financial success, your work (meaning your success) will be done without you".
From here we can understand why the passive construct of "six days your work may be done" is used. It is only when a person believes that his material success comes from the Almighty that he can then completely fulfill the next part of the verse," And on the seventh day, it should be holy to you, a total rest for G-d." This is why, in fact, this verse is stated before Moshe tells the Jewish people to donate gold and silver for the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Once people realize that their wealth is all from G-d, it will be much easier to donate.
There is a universal custom for Jews to eat fish on Shabbos. Some rabbis believe that the reason for this stems from our above insights in the following way: Larger fish pursue smaller fish and try to swallow them. If this is so, we would find, upon cutting the larger fish open, that the swallowed fish would be in the same position as the swallower, with his tail toward the other's tail, and his head parallel to the other's head.
This is not usually the case, however. We find that the head of the swallowed fish faces the tail of the larger fish. The larger fish swims after the smaller fish and thinks that it is his efforts that will guarantee his success at having a good meal, when in fact, it is the fish that swim toward him that "just happen" to enter his open mouth that become his food. The fish makes the effort to catch the smaller fleeing fish, but it is the Almighty who guides the "destined" fish into his mouth!
Jews therefore eat fish on Shabbos to remind us that we need not worry about our livelihood on Shabbos. Since all of our success comes from G-d, and it is G-d who is telling us to keep Shabbos, surely He will provide for our needs during the other six days of the week. Just like the fish don't gain more from chasing more aggressively, so too, our success has nothing to do with our chasing after more money.
Although we have an obligation to work and earn a livelihood as mentioned before, we needn't go overboard and act as if it all depends on us. In fact, not only will a Jew not lose money by refraining from work on Shabbos, he will gain more blessing and success from the Almighty. As we enjoy our gefilte fish this Shabbos, perhaps we will bring to mind the lesson we can learn from the fish, the profound message that the Almighty is our true Provider!