Friday, May 7, 2010

What is your ideal Shabbat?

This week I was talking with someone close to me who called me out for always posting quotations from other sources on my blog. Guilty as charged. :-D So in the days to come I'll be making more of an effort to share from my personal perspective.
In this morning's blog post "What about a Sabbath?", Scot McKnight asks his (primarily Christian) readers about the practice of Sabbath. He writes:
The secret to Sabbath, so it seems to me, or at least one of the secrets, is the habit of setting apart a designated period of time and keeping it no matter what else beckons. And over time how that designated time begins to deepen and grow and lengthen and create memory.
He closes by asking for feedback: "What is your ideal 'Sabbath'? What are your thoughts?" The following is my response:
Great question, Scot.! Three things come to mind.

First, Gen. 2:3 tells me that the reason God sanctified (i.e. set apart or made sacred) the seventh day was because on it he rested from all his (creative) work. When I look at myself, I see this proclivity towards and passion for creating, for forming, for building and shaping. Sometimes it seems like there is no end to the work that needs to be done. A Sabbath on which I cease from creative work means taking an entire day (plus an extra hour or two, in my Jewish tradition) to stop, to enjoy, to wonder, to be thankful to God for the creation that he already brought into existence.

Second, I notice in myself the tendency to use technology to try to extend my influence indefinitely. Communicating with friends around the country, interacting with people I've never even met--technology has made all of this possible. A Sabbath from this kind of technology forces me to concentrate on the people who are right in front of me, the most important people in my life: my wife, my kids, my local community. Since I'm not creating, I'm really focusing on them and on being with them, on learning, worshipping, and growing together.

Finally, Jewish tradition teaches that the Sabbath is a foretaste of the world to come. The New Testament author of Hebrews affirms the same thing when he writes (in Heb. 4:9) "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God." By practicing Sabbath, I begin to shape myself to the way of the world to come; if possible, I experience a foretaste of that ultimate rest, in the here and now.

And when, paradoxically, even resting from work seems like work sometimes, I again take encouragement from the Hebrews: "Let us make every effort to enter that rest." Regularly practicing Sabbath is exactly that: a regular "practice" run for, and a reminder of, the ultimate Sabbath rest of God--the World to Come.
What do you think--was this a good answer? How would you answer Scot's question? Do you feel like one day a week of resting from all work is a good idea? If so, in what ways to you try to put this into practice?

1 comment:

James said...

If the question really is to be applied to my "ideal" Shabbat, that won't happen until the Messiah is present and we all experience what is said in Micah 4:1-5. Even in the current age, I rarely experience my ideal, in that I must drive to services and manage the various "practical" concerns of co-leading a congregation.

Probably the most "ideal" time on my Shabbat is after services when I'm back at home. I make it a practice of reading next week's Torah portion and allow my teaching for the following week to begin to take form. As much as anything, that time of review, contemplation, and prayer is the Shabbat for least here and now.