The Sfas Emes Blog
The Shabbos Mincha Amida mentions menucha which is generally translated as "rest". However if we look at the deep and great ideas that are expressed in the Amida regarding menucha it seems that there is more to it than mere rest. In the Amida we find, "יעקב ובניו ינוחו בו, מנוחת אהבה ונדבה, מנוחת אמת ואמונה, מנוחת שלום ושלוה והשקט ובטח, מנחה שלמה שאתה רוצה בה, יכירו בניך וידעו כי מאתך היא מנוחתם ועל מנוחתם יקדישו את שמך/Ya'akov and his sons will rest on (Shabbos), a rest of love and magnanimity, a rest of truth and faith, a rest of peace and serenity and tranquility and security, a complete rest that You desire; Your children will recognize and know that their rest is from You and through their rest, they will sanctify Your name."
This is high praise for something as mundane as taking the day off. There is obviously more to it than meets the eye. The first clue, the Sfas Emes points out, is that the rest is "complete". The Sfas Emes explains that menucha is more than a cessation of activity. It is a quality that is inherent in everything on Shabbos. God wants us to recognize this quality and therefore commanded us to refrain from work on Shabbos in order to free ourselves from external distractions.
What is the meaning of this quality of menucha that can be found within everything on Shabbos? Elsewhere the Sfas Emes elaborates on the concept of menucha. When a system is working smoothly it can be said to be in a state of rest. The system is at rest because every component is performing its function flawlessly. There is no friction between the moving parts. When every part of a system is doing its job, working towards the common goal that is the system's purpose, the intention of the system's creator becomes apparent.
On the first Shabbos the entire Creation was in this state of rest. It is therefore on Shabbos that the will of the Creator became revealed. The harmony of the system is a testimony to the Creator. Conversely, when God's will, as the Creator, is revealed, each component of the system that we call the universe is seen for what it is, an important cog in the system. The menucha inherent in each component of the universe is thus revealed. Each part is recognized as God's creation, a necessary part of the Creation and God's will is revealed in everything.
This concept sheds light on the deeper meaning of, "מנוחה שלמה שאתה רוצה בה/… a complete rest that You desire." The word רוצה/desire is associated with the word רצון/will. When God's will is recognized in the Creation, the Creation is seen to be "at rest".
Our job is to recognize this, "יכירו וידעו כי מאתך היא מנוחתם/… they will recognize and know that their rest is from You." According to the Sfas Emes, "their rest" refers to the menucha that is inherent in every part of the Creation.
How can we sensitize ourselves so that we recognize this quality of rest in the Creation on Shabbos? The answer, the Sfas Emes explains, is by yearning for closeness to God during the week. This yearning and yearning for Shabbos itself is fundamentally the same.
The Chiddushei HaRim cites Chazal who say that whoever enjoys the Shabbos is given all his heart's desires. The Sfas Emes explains that this applies when a person's desire is for serving God and experiencing closeness to Him which, as we've said, is the same as yearning for Shabbos itself. We can understand this from the pasuk, "ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת/The children of Israel will observe the Shabbos." (Shmos 31:16) The word for observe can also be translated as "wait". The pasuk then can be translated as, "The children of Israel are waiting for the Shabbos."
When we yearn for closeness to God as we go through our week, we are sensitizing ourselves to experience that closeness on Shabbos when we shed the distractions of the week. This is experiencing true rest on Shabbos. In fact, the Zohar understands this concept from a metaphorical interpretation of the pasuk, "אל יצא איש ממקומו ביום השבת/A man should not leave his place on the Shabbos day." The Zohar associates this pasuk with, "ברוך כבוד ה' ממקומו/Blessed is the glory of God from His place." The Zohar therefore understands the first pasuk as an admonition against distancing oneself from God on Shabbos.
To view Shabbos solely as a day off is to miss the point. God gave us Shabbos so that we may recognize Him in the Creation and come close to Him. When we prepare for Shabbos properly during the week by pining for closeness to God, He grants us enlightenment on Shabbos. May we merit it!
 Breishis 5631 First Ma'amar
 Shabbos 118b
 We find this meaning of the word in Breishis 37:11, "ואביו שמר את הדבר/And his father waited for it to happen." This is according to Rashi's commentary on that pasuk.
 Zohar 2:63b-64a