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    Retirement – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is it a sin to give up work since the Torah says, “Six days shall you work”?

    A. What is the status of the words, “Six days shall you work”? Is this a positive mitzvah in the sense that if you don’t work you deserve to be punished? If this were the case, then not only would a retiree have a problem, but so would anyone who is out of work. How just would it be for the Torah to penalise a person who is looking for a job but can’t find one?

    Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler says in his “Michtav Me’Eliyahu” (using the approach of Moshe Chayyim Luzzatto’s “M’sillat Yesharim”), “Look at the lists of the commandments. Nowhere will you find an actual mitzvah of ‘Six days shall you work'”.

    It is not that the Torah has no appreciation of the value of work. But work is not one of the 248 positive mitzvot. The Torah authorises work but with a limitation, as if it said, “When you work, limit it to six days and leave room for Shabbat”.

    One might add that whilst work is important, it is not an end in itself. Work is a means – not an end. It enables people to support themselves and their family and to enhance the quality of civilisation and society… and is the way of enabling yourself to learn Torah.

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