Va-Yakhel and Shekalim
For the week of March 4, 2000 / 27 Adar 5760
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 35:1 - 38:20 and 30:11-16
Haftarah: I Kings 7:40-50 / Replaced by: 2 Kings 12:1-17

Start Stopping

For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD (Shemot / Exodus 35:2).

I hesitated to deal with this subject, because I felt that no matter what I wrote, I would most likely receive quite a bit of harsh criticism. It is not that I mind this kind of feedback, it is just that the subject of the Sabbath evokes such strong emotions from people. Religious Jewish people and many brands of Christians have spent literally centuries analyzing, arguing, defending, practicing, and purposely neglecting the Sabbath. For some Sabbath observance is the hallmark of faith, the litmus test of a person's right to claim membership in the community. Others have relegated it to antiquity, not taking the time to realize its relevance and benefit to us in our own day.

Without getting into some of the more controversial aspects of this subject, I would like to address some things that you may find helpful.

The Hebrew word shabbat, which we translate "Sabbath" comes from a root word meaning "to stop." The Sabbath is for stopping. God instituted this day not to exert his control over our lives, but rather because we needed it.

I is God's prerogative to tell us what to do with our days. The weekends are no more our own to do with as we please than the rest of the week. We need to live for God. We won't find true freedom without that perspective.

God knows about our need for rest better than we do. He did not give us the ability to work seven days a week. God knows what would happen to us if we didn't discipline ourselves to regularly stop. If God had not instituted the Sabbath, we would be working seven days a week. And isn't that what many of us do? How many people today really take a day off? You may have an official five-day work week. But what do you do on those other two days? Often it is shopping, cleaning, and other forms of work that we find we don't have time for on the other days. God knows we need to be told to stop or else we will wear ourselves out.

It is through the Sabbath that we come to realize that our provision does not depend on how much work we put in each week. By taking a weekly Sabbath, we express that we can rely on God for our needs. By stopping our normal activities we have the opportunity to notice God's work in our lives.

The Sabbath prevents us from abusing the services of others. Without the Sabbath we would extract as much as we can from others. Several times in the Torah God commands that we should provide rest to our children, servants, and even animals.

The Sabbath also emphasizes our need to work. We are given one Sabbath per week (not counting a few other special occasions). Our society puts so much value on leisure. While resting is good, it is to only take up one seventh of our week.

It is fairly recently that a great many businesses and services run seven days a week. Some say our modern lifestyle demands it. We are told that this kind of access to goods and services enhances our way of life. But in reality it has made life more hectic. The constant pressure to shop and work is a burden that we were never intended to bear.

We need to stop. We need time for rest and reflection. Society used to give us that opportunity. Now that is lost, and it does not look like it will be given to us again any time soon. The onus then is on us to do it ourselves.

Isn’t it about time we started stopping?

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