Wednesday, March 19, 2008
[lighting the Sabbath candles on Friday afternoon, from Minhagim (Customs), published by Solomon Proops, Amsterdam, 1707]
Today, the concept of a seven day week including at least one day of rest is universal. However Judaism invented the Sabbath.
7 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 8 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; 9 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; 10 for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20)
For an Orthodox Jew, all life comes to a halt one day in every seven. Nothing involving electricity, fire or internal combustion may be used. Cars, lights, computers and telephones become untouchable. Food may be removed from the stove but not put on it. We may read by a light, but not turn it on or off. Cars, planes, buses, etc. are off limits. Writing is prohibited. Shopping is prohibited.
This means that regardless of how busy a Jew is, regardless of how much stress he is under, he will rest and relax, without fail, once the sun sets on Friday until dark on Saturday evening. He will have time to spend together with family and friends, without the distraction of television or telephones. He will have time to pray and study Torah and contemplate spiritual priorities. Only an actual danger to human life can take precedence over the Sabbath. The spiritual, mental and social benefits of the Sabbath are immeasurable.
I recall one Sabbath I observed 11 years ago. My wife was expecting triplets, three boys, when, in the middle of the pregnancy, her water broke. This happened on a Friday morning. She was hospitalized for several days before delivering the babies, who died immediately because of their extreme prematurity. In any case, I spent that Sabbath next to her bed in the maternity ward. On Friday, friends had brought us the customary Sabbath foods, such as challah and kugel. I made Kiddush. It was a very sad time; however even in the midst of it we still found peace and meaning in observing the ancient traditions together.
The Sabbath is a queen, a bride, God's special gift to the Jews. It must be experienced to be appreciated. In the midst of the craziness of life, the Sabbath preserves our sanity.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:56 AM