As we enter into the holiest of the seasons, and we look toward taking some time off to be with family and loved ones, let us reflect on why the creator gave us six days to labor and the seventh to rest. To find the origins of our current schedule, we don’t have to look much further than our creator, who might I remind you, created us in his own image. In doing so, and in instructing us through his word, our creator gives us a basic outline of a schedule by which to structure our lives.
The term Sabbath derives from the Hebrew word shavat, "(to) cease". First used in the bibles account of the last day of creation, it was repeated, as a commandment, the fourth of the Ten Commandments to be exact. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.” Exodus 20:11
We see from this that the principle of rest is rooted in natural law rather than a religiously instituted principle. Furthermore we can ascertain that the Great Divine does not expect more of us than he does of himself. That the body, mind and spirit need a day to replenish is a universal principal that applies even to our creator. We should keep the day sacred which simply means set apart, consecrated, not to be treated as all other days. There are many examples where prophets took the time to be apart from their followers, and to be apart from ministering so as to rest and replenish the spirit. Taking the time for self reflection is one of the attributes that we carry as the image of creation. He who created us also reflects on what he does. He looks back and considers his creation, their interactions and how it impacts his ultimate purpose in society. Christ, who corrected the religious thinking of his day regarding the Sabbath, stated that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. In saying this he was taking it out of its religious context and placing it in the context of general human needs for rest, reflection, food etc.
Numerous other religions have similar practices, and the term has also been imported into secular usage. A sabbatical is a prolonged hiatus, typically one year, in the career of an individual taken in order to fulfill some goal, e.g., writing a book or traveling extensively for research. Some universities and other institutional employers of scientists, physicians, and/or academics offer a paid sabbatical as an employee benefit, called sabbatical leave. These people who spend most of their time in service to others are given time to reflect and follow their inclination to rejuvenate, and follow a course set by their spirits.
When individuals usually think of the Sabbath they think of religion and not God’s design for the replenishment of the body, soul, and spirit. It’s a time to consider what’s truly valuable, important and meaningful in life. Today we have two extreme schools of thought; those that want to shorten the work week to allow time for more rest and those that want to lengthen the work week to allow for more labor. But the genesis formula still stands as the right balance for labor and rest. Holy is to be God like. When we have go through hell and high water all week long, we really need some time to reflect on what’s going on with the children, the spouse, financial woes etc in order to have balance of purpose. Reflect and build from there. Start your next week fresh, with a strengthened perspective, a higher purpose, and a deeper resolve.
As we read, hear, and see the world’s headlines in print, over the internet, and on television, most of what we see is unnecessary killing, starvation, rape, injustice, bigotry, intolerance, and our children being preyed on by the ills we have created in our society. Maybe we need to make better use of our time as the Jews do with Shabbat and the Muslims with Jumaa on Fridays after noon. Use the Sabbath as a time for replenishing, rebuilding, to think on the Lord and his goodness to you and your love ones, and to reflect on your impact on creation. It’s about cleansing the soul. Remember, there were many things the Israelites had to do to get right with their creator and the creation. Amongst other things, they were instructed to; abstain from eating pork, they were to be humble and modest, they were told not to covet their neighbor’s belongings, and they were called to want for their brother what they want for themselves. If you were to go to Israel today you would see all three major religions living there and you would see many different faiths living under similar principles and calling it their Holy Land. But like many of us, they have gotten so far from living as reflections of the creator. Too often in our society we put the rest ahead of the work, we want the pay off before we deliver the product, and we haven’t created or had a positive impact upon anything, yet we feel we should be able to sit back and judge the work of others. Let’s take some time during the upcoming Sabbatical season to reflect on what type of examples we are setting for the generations that will follow us.