At the beginning of the section of Emor - in which the festivals and their laws are enumerated - the verse says:1 “Six days shall you work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath of Sabbaths... you shall perform no labor.”

Rashi comments:2 “What is Sabbath doing among the festivals? To teach you that whoever desecrates the festivals is considered as if he desecrated the Sabbath, and whoever observes the festivals is considered as if he observed the Sabbath.”

Rashi’s comment needs to be understood: What is it about the festivals that makes their observance (by not laboring) or their non-observance (by laboring) tantamount to observing or desecrating the Sabbath?

The phrase “six days” refers not only to six individual days, but to a unit of time that is six days long. Thus, when the Torah states “Six days shall you work” it implies that G‑d made a distinct period of time during which, and only during which, labor is to be performed. Labor is thus prohibited during any and all times that do not fit in this weekday framework of six mundane days.

By prefacing the festival section with “Six days shall you work,” the Torah defines two general time periods with regard to labor: a) six days during which work should be done; b) any other time, during which labor is prohibited.

We thus understand that by implication, “whoever desecrates the festivals is considered as if he desecrated the Sabbath; whoever observes the festivals is considered as if he observed the Sabbath.” For although the punishment for performing labor during the festivals is less severe than that for working on the Sabbath, the general grounds for the prohibition during a festival is the same as on the Sabbath — neither time period is included within the six days during which work is permitted.

Our Sages say in the Mechilta that the phrase “Six days shall you work” is a positive commandment. Thus, not only is labor permitted during the six weekdays, it is a mitzvah. This is in keeping with the verse:3G‑d your L-rd will bless you in all you do ,” i.e., each person is to make of himself a natural receptacle for G‑d’s blessings.

However, this manner of conduct pertains only to the physical body, and to the Jew’s soul as it is clothed within his body. Though the body tends to conceal the eternal qualities of the G‑dly soul, the Torah commands every Jew to conduct himself according to nature. This is in accord with the sayings of our Sages: “One should not rely on miracles,”4 “The laws of the land are valid laws,”5 etc.

But with regard to the soul itself, labor is superfluous; the soul fulfills its purpose while enjoying the spiritual “rest” of Sabbaths and Festivals.

So two opposite aspects are required in the spiritual service of each and every Jew: During the “six days” in which a person is to labor, labor becomes a positive command. But when it comes to the Sabbaths and festivals, a Jew’s soul shines forth in all its glory. He must then transcend the body and its needs.

Understandably, while in such a state mundane work is anathema.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVII pp. 242-246.