‘An Island in Time’

Yael Eckstein  |  June 19, 2020

analog clock with two alarm bells on top

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
         I will be exalted among the nations,
         I will be exalted in the earth.”
— Psalm 46:10

This month, I’m sharing with you weekly devotions based on my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children. These devotions are tied to the biblical observance of the Sabbath, Shabbat, and explore the many lessons it has for us today.

The Sabbath reminds us that while we must work in life, life must never become about work. It serves as a weekly reminder that life is about connecting with God, our families, friends, communities, and ultimately, about making the world a better place. Moreover, the Sabbath recalls that God is the Creator and Master of the world, keeping our human role in proper perspective. It is, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once called it, “an island in time,” where we can collectively recalibrate our focus on what really matters.

For one day in seven, we live on this “island in time,” where time itself is suspended and we cease to be enslaved by it. The Sabbath is a day of spiritual connection in the context of physical rest. It’s a day to recognize God as the Master of the universe and to study His Word. We don’t refrain from working just so that we can have a short break before we go back to the grind the next day; we rest from activity so that we can exercise our soul.

In the words of Heschel, the purpose of Shabbat is, “To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence of external obligations, a day on which we stop worshiping the idols of technical civilization, a day on which we use no money, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow men and the forces of nature…”

Heschel concludes, “Is there any institution that holds out a greater hope for man’s progress than the Sabbath?”

In this day and age, with the constant barrage of information and motion, the Shabbat experience is more important than ever. In our fast-paced society, where it’s easy to lose oneself in the hustle and bustle of it all, Shabbat is essential for slowing down, finding one’s self, and hearing the still small voice of God. On Shabbat, we are able to press the pause button on the busy schedule of life and take time to focus on what really matters. No one checks email, answers a phone, or gets in a car to go anywhere. We are simply present — with each other and with God.

Perhaps there is no generation more in need of Shabbat than our own.

Your Turn: How can you make your Sabbath observance more of a time to slow down and focus on God? Share your thoughts below.