(by Rabbi Eh'bed Baw'naw from Kehilat Melech Mashyach)
The Hebrew roots is a very odd place when it comes to the infighting on basic premises such as Shabbos. Like Sammy Hagar they think "There's Only One Way to Rock" or to fulfill a mitzvos. And this comes when we fail to ditch our gregorian mindset in thinking there is only one concise way to do Shabbos and it is the way many make it up in their heads.
I have received several emails from individuals whom ask me, can I cook on Shabbos? Or can I fold clothes on Shabbos? Can I watch teachings on Shabbos? Can I play games with my kids on Shabbos? The list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is Shabbos means "rest" essentially. It is a set apart time for us that G-d ordained for us to break away from our daily regiment and refresh ourselves and basically have intimate time with him and with family. It is a day unlike any other in our week. And it is important to realize that Yeshua paralleled the hasidic principle:
Rebbe Melech Mashyach Yeshua spoke to the Baalei Torah and Perushim, saying, Is it mutar (permissible) on Shabbos to give refuah or not? But they kept silent. And having taken hold of him, Yeshua granted him refuah and sent him away. And to them Yeshua said, Who of you having a ben or an ox fall into a well and will not ofen ort (immediately) pull him out on Shabbos? And they were not able to make a counter argument keneged (against) this.
And it came about [that] on Shabbos, Rebbe, Melech Mashyach Yeshua was passing through the grain fields, and his talmidim began to make [their] way picking the heads of grain. And the Perushim said to him, Look, why are they engaging in what is not mutar (permissible) in the Torah on Shabbos? And Yeshua says to them, Have you never read in the Tanakh what David HaMelech did when he was in need and he was hungry, he and the ones with him? How he entered into the Beis Hashem during the yamim of Evyatar the Kohen Gadol and the Lechem HaPanim he ate, which to be eaten it is not mutar (permissible) except by the Kohanim, and he gave [some] also to the ones with him. And Yeshua said to them, Shabbos was created for the sake of ish and not ish for the sake of Shabbos.
This also means we must take a closer look at Shemos (Exodus) 20:10 and it says:
But the Yom HaShevi'i is the Shabbos of Hashem Eloheicha; in it you shall not do any melachah, nor
your ben, nor your bat, nor eved, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your ger tosav that is
within thy gates.
Now the word melachah is a word with several meanings, all of which are correct and they help to define what the translation of "work" actually constitutes. The word can mean work, meaning physical or intellectual labor, but there is another facet because it also means literally "to sweat" or to "exert". And within this prohibition which Yeshua and the modern hasidim are in agreement upon is that ezer (help) is not a prohibition against the Shabbos. Because it does not parallel melachah, because melachah is for reasons of helping oneself and advancing one's self through exercise to gain strength, or to work on Shabbos for personal advancement and it is the antithesis of Shabbos which is to connect with Hashem and connect with others. Which is why we have fellowship on Shabbos and not on other days of the week because we can fulfill both those mitzvios. One can fulfill this at a schul or with family, there is no prohibition saying you must fulfill shabbos by visiting a schul. For many do not have one. They may desire to attend one but they are unable. So given the ruling by Yeshua on matter and giving the rulings found in Torah She Be'al Peh a person can fulfill Shabbos in shalom and not break the mitzvos when "life happens".
So to clarify the question of "what constitutes work"? We must realize that work for financial gain must be avoided if one is able. If one is unable to, the teshuvah is to then donate the earnings of that day in tzedakah, and that does not necessarily mean a congregation or ministry or an established charity, but rather to put the earnings aside and help a person in need in your community. Whether it be paying for a person's meal that cannot afford it, or if someone does not have enough gas in their car for the week, etc. That is true tzedakah. But in terms of is "folding clothes" or "cooking' on shabbos prohibited, the question then is one you need to ask within yourself. Here is the reason I say this.
When I come home from my job, what relaxes me and helps me let loose is I love creating an amazing meal in my kitchen, sometimes with a glass of wine and some smooth jazz playing. It is relaxing for me, and during Shabbos it actually helps me to focus in on Hashem because I think of each of the ingredients I use as how the instances in our lives change our life overall, not only the smallest things but the littlest of things and how G-d uses those as ingredients to turn our life into something else. But at the same time we maintain our divine spark, for the chicken is still chicken but it becomes something anew. I have never found cooking to be work, I have always found it to be relaxing. Now for another, cooking could be stressful, and it could be considered work. That person should abstain from cooking on the Shabbos. How then do we reconcile the verse:
You shall kindle no aish (fire) throughout your habitations upon Yom HaShabbos.
The word for fire is aish, and the word for woman is isha, the word for man is ish. For the sages say that a man (ish) doesn't become whole until he receives his ayin (isha: symbolizing his wife) and they become one. When the ayin is placed in front of the yod, then there is disorder and the word for woman, becomes the word for fire (aish). Therefore the verse is alluding to the fact that there should not be any marital strife (fire, disorder) in the home on Yom HaShabbos. For it would not make any sense to put a prohibition on an inanimate object that has no nefesh. This is why the sages concluded that a "spark" from a stove is not what is being talked about here in the verse. But rather that no argument should take place between husband and wife on the Shabbos because the Shabbos is not about them....it is about Hashem. This is why the severe literalists in the Hebrew Roots have it dead wrong when they get a Shabbos goy to turn their lights on and off for them or to light the stove, this is not found anywhere in our tradition that we hire a Shabbos goy, it is a modern invention of the past 100 years.
In terms of other things such as folding clothes or watching movies or playing games with your family the question you have to ask is (and note it is different for everyone) "Am I more connected to Hashem when I __________ or am I not? Where does my mind go? Am I taking away from Him and my focus on Him?". Find what it is that helps you make that connection, if you make the connection while doing laundry then Baruch Hashem, if you make the connection while resting with a beverage and a kosher meal and a movie then Baruch Hashem. Sometimes we need that time to reflect on our life and say "ahhhh, things are not so bad and it is all because of Hashem's doing in my life". It's good.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)