“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 ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.” — Deuteronomy 5:13–14
The Torah portion for this week is Va’etchanan, which means “I pleaded,” from Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:1–26.
I recently came across a statement that read: “Remember, an amateur built the ark and the Titanic was built by professionals.” While the quote was intended to encourage readers to try new things and not to be deterred by a lack of expertise, another lesson jumped out at me. Our abilities and efforts are a small part of the equation of success. The larger, more determining factor of success is the will of God.
If God wills it, an amateur can create the greatest structure, a poor person can become rich, and a person of average intelligence can come up with the next best thing. And if He doesn’t will it, even the greatest, most sophisticated minds will amount to nothing.
In this week’s reading, we are reminded of the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment requires us to observe the Sabbath. What that means for every individual varies. For an Orthodox Jew, it means refraining from many weekday things (such as using a phone or a computer), and engaging in activities that revolve around worship and family every Saturday. For a Christian it may mean taking a day to rest and going to church on Sunday. However, the observance of the Sabbath has another meaning as well – one that goes beyond Saturday and Sunday into every day of our lives.
When teaching us about the Sabbath, the Bible says: “ Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath . . .” Now, who among us can “do all your work” by Friday? Scripture seems to be telling us to finish up by Friday so that we can rest on the Sabbath. But if you are like the rest of us, chances are that when you close up for the weekend, you leave behind an overflowing inbox and much unfinished business. These days, it seems that work never ends!
That is exactly the point that the Bible wants to make. Your work may not be finished on Friday, but your part in the work is. The Sabbath is a metaphor for all our work in life. We put in our best efforts and do our part. But at some point, we must stop and let God take over.
The Sabbath is a concept meant to be incorporated into everything we do, every day of our lives. We do our best and let God do the rest. We need to be acutely aware of Who is the real Creator. While we may contribute to the world, it is ultimately God Who is responsible for every success and each failure. So, let go of working overtime – and let God take over every time!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President