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2 minutes reading

The Sabbath is the silence that forces you to return to what came before to find its meaning

The Sabbath is the silence that forces you to return to what came before to find its meaning The Sabbath is the silence that forces you to return to what came before to find its meaning
Source: Eiko Ojala via Behance
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Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day. As the Cat in the Hat says, “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.”

This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional, requiring extensive advance preparation—at the very least a scrubbed house, a full larder and a bath. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction. […]

The Israelite Sabbath institutionalized an astonishing, hitherto undreamed-of notion: that every single creature has the right to rest, not just the rich and the privileged. Covered under the Fourth Commandment are women, slaves, strangers and, improbably, animals. The verse in Deuteronomy that elaborates on this aspect of the Sabbath repeats, twice, that slaves were not to work, as if to drive home what must have been very hard to understand in the ancient world. […]

What was Creation’s climactic culmination? The act of stopping. Why should God have considered it so important to stop? […] God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so. The implication is clear. We could let the world wind us up and set us to marching, like mechanical dolls that go and go until they fall over, because they don’t have a mechanism that allows them to pause. But that would make us less than human. We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember.

The Sabbath provides two things essential to anyone who wishes to lift himself out of the banality of mercantile culture: time to contemplate and distance from everyday demands. The Sabbath is to the week what the line break is to poetic language. It is the silence that forces you to return to what came before to find its meaning.

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