Working and Shabbat are opposites. On Shabbat there is no work; on workdays there is no Shabbat. The contrast comes with the opening of the sidra: “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to HaShem” (Ex. 35:2).
To Judaism this is axiomatic. Hence the build-up of excitement as the week winds down (or rather, builds up) to Friday night, followed by just over 24 hours enriched by a n’shamah y’terah, an additional soul, and then the poignant farewell to Shabbat as Havdalah proclaims the distinction between holy and profane, between the seventh day and the six days of work.
But it would be a mistake to think that Shabbat should be missing from weekdays and work from Shabbat. Not in the literal sense, but metaphorically. So what “work” is appropriate for Shabbat? The Creation story says, “God finished on the seventh day His work which He had done” (Gen. 2:2). The Midrash asks, “What did the world lack after the six days of work? Rest. So God finished His labours on the seventh day by creating the day of rest”.
Likewise, there is “work” for us to do on the seventh day, the effort to give the day a Shabbat spirit, flavour and feeling. And what way should Shabbat be part of the weekdays? By instilling a sense of purpose. Why do we work? In order to earn Shabbat. How should we work? By means that are above board and honourable.
The Prayer for Parnasah says, “O Lord God, bless me through my occupation, that I may be able to support myself and my household by lawful and not by forbidden means”.