In the Torah portion Vayeitzei , G‑d blesses Yaakov, declaring to him:1 “You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north and to the south.” The Gemara comments:2 “Whoever delights in the Shabbos receives an unlimited heritage, as is written:3 ‘Then you shall delight in G‑d… and I will nourish you with the heritage of Yaakov,’ of whom it is written: ‘You shall spread out to the west, to the east….’ ”

The reward for the performance of a mitzvah is, of course, measure for measure.4 What aspect of the mitzvah of Shabbos causes its reward to be “an unlimited heritage”?

Shabbos differs from all other mitzvos in that the performance of other mitzvos is achieved through labor and action. There are thus differences between the manner in which a very righteous individual will perform a mitzvah and the manner in which it will be performed by a simple person.

For example, tefillin are to be placed opposite the heart and upon the head so as to “bind” the head and heart to G‑d. Understandably, there is a vast difference between the spiritual head and heart of a truly righteous individual and that of a less righteous one. The same is true with regard to other mitzvos.

Observing Shabbos, however, consists of a cessation from labor. With regard to “not doing,” all Jews can be equal.

Although the cessation of labor of simple folk involves refraining from menial tasks while the cessation of labor of the lofty involves a pause in the spiritual refinement of the physical world, these people only differ with regard to the manner of labor they are resting from; with regard to the resultant cessation of labor, all Shabbos-observant Jews are equal.5

Superficially, it would seem that the same would be true regarding all prohibitive commandments; like Shabbos, they involve not doing something. But upon closer reflection, the difference between the cessation of labor on Shabbos and the keeping of negative commandments is obvious:

Prohibitory commands are a direct outgrowth of positive ones. For example, the prohibition against idolatry stems from the positive command that a Jew is to have faith and knowledge only of G‑d; the prohibition of eating non-kosher animals is a direct result of the mitzvah of kashrus, etc.

The cessation demanded by Shabbos, on the other hand, is the actual and entire commandment, as the verse states:6 “You shall not do any work… For [in] six days G‑d made the heavens and earth… and rested on the seventh day.”

The reason why all Jews are entirely equal with regard to the mitzvah of cessation of labor on Shabbos stems from the fact that the mitzvah of Shabbos touches the essence of the Jewish soul. Differences between one Jew and another exist only on an external level; with regard to their essence, they are all equal.

This, too, is the meaning of the statement in the Minchah prayer of Shabbos: “May Your children recognize and know that from You is their rest, and by their rest they sanctify Your Name.” Shabbos rest derives from G‑d’s very Essence — “from You.” This causes each Jew’s rest to be bound up with the essence of his soul.

It is also from this level of essential soul that a Jew finds the strength to offer his life for the sanctification of G‑d’s Name — a power found in all Jews equally.

Thus, both Shabbos rest and ultimate self-sacrifice arise from the same source. It thus follows that “by their rest” i.e., by the very power that enables all Jews to rest equally on Shabbos, comes the ability to “sanctify Your Name.”

The connection between the blessing “And you shall spread out…” and Shabbos will be understood accordingly. “And you shall spread out…” is an unlimited heritage that derives from G‑d’s limitless Essence. This is achieved through observing Shabbos, for Shabbos too stems from G‑d’s Essence.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XV, pp. 226-229.