"Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns." - Exodus 20:9-10
The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means "Jethro," from Exodus 18:1-20:23, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 6:1-13.
There are so many ways to serve God. Sometimes we might be called to feed the hungry, other times to visit the sick. Some of us are called to work and make a living in order to support our families. Others serve God by staying at home and taking care of their household's needs. There are endless ways to serve God - and sometimes, the way to serve Him best is to rest.
In this week's portion, as we read the Ten Commandments, we come across the commandment to remember the Sabbath. The verse reads, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . ."
The Hebrew word in the Bible for the phrase "you shall labor" is ta'avod, which can also mean "you shall serve." The Jewish sages suggest an alternate way to read the verse: "Six days you shall serve God by doing all of your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath . . . and you shall serve the LORD your God by not doing any work." Sometimes we serve God through the work of our hands, but the Sabbath teaches us that other times, the way to serve God is by resting.
How is resting service to God?
Maimonides, the renowned 12th century rabbi and physician, once said, "If a person sleeps in order to allow his mind to rest and to give rest to his body so that he should not become sick and unable to serve God because of illness, in this case his very sleep is service of God." It all depends on our intention. If we eat so that we can have energy to serve God, then our eating is service to God. If we exercise so that we have strength to serve God, then our exercising is service to God. And if we rest so that we can serve God with joy, enthusiasm, and strength, then resting, too, can be service to God.
Moreover, there is a deeper significance to resting as service to God. When we rest - when we take a break from doing all the things we typically do - we demonstrate our faith in God. Many people become workaholics because they think that if they stop working, the world will stop spinning on its axis. When we rest, we recognize that God is the one running the world, not us. This faith is also service to God.
This week, take a break. Remember to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Sometimes the greatest thing that we can do for the glory of God is to do nothing at all.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President