On the seventh day G-d completed His work which He had done… (Genesis 2:2)
The implication of this phrase is that something was left to be accomplished on the seventh day. This is surprising to many people, because we are accustomed to saying (Shemos 31:17), “in six days Hashem made the heaven and the earth and on the seventh day He rested.”
What was left to be created on the seventh day?
Rashi explains that it was on the seventh day that Hashem created Menucha (rest), as this had still been lacking from the world.
What we see from here is that real rest is something that has to be actively created. Menucha is not just the cessation of work or creative activity. For a Jew, Menucha is the feeling a soul is able to experience once we create the proper conditions for relaxation through our observance of the 39 Melachos of Shabbos.
In our contemporary society, many people wonder why the Jewish day of rest – the Holy Shabbos – must be marked by the observance of hundreds of Jewish laws.
While those who ask this question are generally well-meaning, the question is predicated on a misunderstanding that Menucha is something that must actively be built and nurtured. The minutia of the laws of Shabbos are part and parcel of this structure.
By contrast, the world as a whole has invented countless ways to rest and relax, but without an authentic spiritual backbone aimed at satisfying the needs of the soul, these machinations invariably fall short of their expectations and leave most people with a sensation of emptiness.