As with other disciplines, such as fasting, Sabbath is not just about what we don’t do but what we choose to DO in place of the thing with which we are disengaging – what will we do with our time? As with fasting, where we must choose how we will eat otherwise when we’ve given up chocolate or fried foods. Will we exercise or do something else that is healthy in place of the unhealthy habit we gave up?
“Sabbath is something that need not be limited to Sunday; it can be observed any time of the week. In breaking from the schedule of our everyday lives, we free up time to add what is truly restful, to embrace wholly our relationship with God, and to feast on God’s presence in our lives. There is a sense, then, that we can somehow reclaim that time we spend on unfocused busyness to make it holy. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel, in his book The Sabbath, echoes this idea about regaining our time and making it holy when he calls Sabbath, ‘a palace in time which we build.’”
– Kyle Roberson, Soul Tending
Sabbath is not a day, but a way of living. We “fast” from work and productivity. The practice of Sabbath is what separated the Hebrews from other cultures. Their lives were planned around the time that they gave way to deep rest and a time to allow God to be present to them without distraction. Our “palace in time” was the last creation of God in Genesis. And observing it is one of the 10 commandments given to Moses. It was created FOR the people of God, to help them be their best selves.
Sabbath was also the great equalizer of the people. Rich and poor alike. Student and Rabbi, Priest and King, as well as farmers and crafters and other commoners. Men, women and children. Servant and master. All were to observe Sabbath. No exceptions. Suspending hierarchies, and creating equality.
Productivity ended for Sabbath. All food was prepared before. Chores were done in advance or put off. Animals taken care of early the day before, or waiting till late when the day was ended. (Sunset to sunset). No money was exchanged. No products bought or sold. The economy was suspended for everyone and everything to have a day of peaceful rest.
How do WE observe Sabbath? Culturally, we do not take an exact time where everyone together takes time away from all productivity. Yet, the commandment still exists and Christians still observe (or should observe) sabbath. Do we take a time away from productivity, personal or communal? From physical work, intellectual pursuit, purchasing, from serving others even? A break that is complete! And HOW do we spend the time? What is truly restful?
I, who do not spend much of my “work” week in anything physical, may find that Sabbath means something physical and relaxing, play not work – playing with children, taking a walk. Where someone who works with their hands, and is physically tired at the end of each work day, may find reading a book or napping more relaxing and restful. The idea is that we suspend usual activity to live in our “palace in time,” where we treat ourselves and others royally, and not be concerned in any way about producing a work product, or being economically or intellectually fruitful!
Sabbath is about allowing ourselves the time to just be. And at the same time allowing others the same opportunity to just be for a time, too. To just be, is to allow God’s entry, God’s presence in ways that cannot happen when we are engaged in “productivity,” which can distract us from God’s presence.