Among the laws detailed in the parashah, we are told: “Six days shall you accomplish your activities, and on the seventh day you shall desist so that your ox and donkey may be content, and your maidservants and converts may be refreshed” (23:12). Why do only the ox and donkey get to rest, while maidservants and converts get to be refreshed? Why are the instructions for animals different?
Rashi explains that animals should not be restrained and forced to work, thereby breaking Shabbos, and maidservants and converts should not be forced to break Shabbos. The Mechilta explains that animals relax in their own way, and restricting them would diminish their enjoyment. The opposite is true for the maidservants and converts—keeping Shabbos would help them relax with proper perspective. The Torah is, as should we be, sensitive to animals, Jews, and non-Jews, in addressing how to best accommodate a day of rest meaningful to each.