We all need a Sabbath, one that nurtures the body and the soul. But as religious leaders tend to spend more time defining what that means, convincing others to share their definition and condemning those who don’t share it as missing out on the having a “real” Sabbath, most people can’t imagine that Sabbath is for everyone and that it can look different from person to person and community to community while still remaining an authentic Sabbath.
Sabbath is a method or a value more than it is a rigid recipe or fixed practice. That may sound odd coming from a traditional Jew whose Sabbath observance is defined by many rules – rules which include many fixed practices and which prohibit all kinds of behaviors deemed to violate the Sabbath. I love that Sabbath and feel with all my heart that it achieves its goals, but it is the goals which need to be achieved and there have always been many ways to do that depending on the time and place in which Sabbath was observed.
Sabbath as described in the Hebrew Bible bears little outward resemblance to contemporary Jewish practice, and even among contemporary Jews, there is a wide range of what is experienced as Sabbath observance. The constant among all that change is, or should be, about a very simply idea: whoever you are, you should take about 15 percent of your time each week to remind yourself that you are more than that which you achieve or accomplish.
Sabbath was a radical innovation when it was introduced some 2,000 years ago, and it remains a radical concept to this day. No matter what happens, that you exist as you are, is worthy of celebration. No matter what anybody says or does to you, you are an infinitely valuable creation endowed with inalienable dignity, the right to be free and to enjoy a measure of rest on a regular basis. That has been the essence of Sabbath, in Jewish tradition at least for millennia, and while I may understand how that is accomplished in very specific ways, the ways are not the issue – feeling those feelings and connecting to the sacredness of our existence, are the issues.
If someone wants to know why I Sabbath as I do, great! I am always happy to explain because I love it and because it works. But in this crazy world, moving at a pace and filled with demands that make increasingly difficult for people to feel their own true value, however one gets to that place of rest, what the book of Exodus describes as being re-souled, is the thing upon which we should all be focused.