"Work" as it relates to Shabbat rest, is not physical exertion, but what the Torah calls melachah, "creative work." For example, writing or cooking is a melachah, while carrying a heavy piece of furniture across the room is not.

Our model for the types of activities which constitute "creative work" is the Mishkan ("Tabernacle") — the portable sanctuary built in the Sinai Desert by the people of Israel as a "dwelling" for the Divine Presence. Yet G‑d commanded that the work of building the Mishkan should cease on Shabbat.

Torah law identifies 39 types of work that were involved in the making of the Mishkan, and from which we desist on Shabbat. These include: all stages of agricultural work from plowing and sowing to reaping and winnowing; cooking and baking; weaving and sewing, writing, building, and lighting a fire.

In the following pages, we will look at some practical examples of how Shabbat rest is observed.