For in six days G-d made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore G-d blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. –Exodus 20:11
I heard someone say recently that the laws of the Torah do not apply to the modern world. I think some of the commandments apply even more so today than ever. Take the fourth commandment. Written twice (Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12) as if to underline the importance of the commandments, there is a single word difference from the first to the second:
Remember the Sabbath Day to sanctify it.
Safeguard the Sabbath Day to sanctify it.
There are entire books written on the subject of the single changed word. I am not going to go into that level of detail. I will say that the Jewish tradition says there are no mistakes in the Torah. We must remember the Sabbath – do not forget to take a break. We must safeguard the Sabbath – do not let anyone take it from you, nor desecrate it. Anyone includes you!
In our fast and furious paced lives, it is as important today as ever to remember to take the time to relax. A direct translation of the text reads:
“…You shall not do any work – you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, your ox, your donkey, and your every animal, and your convert within your gates, in order that your slave and your maidservant may rest like you.”
Pretty heady stuff, huh? Nobody shall work.
Rabbi Michael Barclay explained to me once that G-d wrote the Torah and it was his; when he gave it to mankind, it became ours… and thus it was ours to interpret as we do. We must all decide for ourselves what rest looks like.
There is a story of my grandfather Aaron z”l who was an avid golfer. He had a cottage in Loon Lake, New York, where there was (during the summer at least) a thriving Jewish community. There was a synagogue… and there was a golf course. One Saturday afternoon the rabbi was walking home after Sabbath services and he saw my grandfather on the course. He veered from his direct path to greet him. “Aaron, why weren’t you in synagogue with us this morning?” My grandfather’s reply was “Rabbi, you commune with G-d in your way; I commune with him in mine.” How can one argue against that?
For my grandfather, rest from the long work week meant golfing. What does it mean to you? You have to answer that for yourself. Whatever you do to rest, make sure you do find time at the end of the week to rest. If it is not at the end of the week, then make sure you have another day of the week where you can unwind, decompress, and do whatever it is that pleases you and gives you rest.
If you are worried about it, I have no daughter, slave, maidservant, ox, or donkey. If I did have maidservants, they would be given their day of rest on their Sabbath (Sunday). The only animal that I do have… well let’s just say that Sophie is not a working dog!
As for me? At least this Sabbath I will follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. I will golf in the afternoon, I will spend time with friends, and I will relax… my way.
I hope you do too.