Keep the Sabbath Holy

Yael Eckstein  |  October 26, 2022

Yael blessing on Shabbat

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. —Exodus 20:8-10

At the very heart of Judaism is the Sabbath — the only ritual ordained in the Ten Commandments. In a world where there are so many distractions, it is imperative to learn about and cherish the one day a week set aside for rest and contemplation, a day Jews call Shabbat. This series of devotions explores the many lessons we can learn from this rich observance.

You know that feeling as you get closer and closer to some special event? It may be a vacation, a visit from a loved one who has been away a long time, or a major milestone, like a graduation or a wedding.

We all know the feeling of growing excitement as the day approaches. Usually, when it comes to important moments, we find ourselves marking the time, counting the days and hours left before the arrival of the big day.

This is why there are no Hebrew names for the first six days of the week. Instead, they are known by the number of days we are counting up until Shabbat, the Sabbath. Sunday is called yom rishon beshabbat, or “the first day toward Shabbat,” Monday is yom shainee beshabbat, or “the second day toward Shabbat,” and so on.

Every day is a countdown to the one day that matters most. Only the seventh day, the Sabbath, has a name: Shabbat, stop, rest.

Keep the Sabbath Holy

This Jewish custom is hinted at in the Ten Commandments. We read, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God.”

The obvious point of these verses is the commandment to observe the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. So why does the Bible need to tell us “Six days you shall labor”? Is this a commandment? Is the Bible telling us that there is an obligation to work for six days? If I take a weeklong vacation or am retired, am I in violation of God’s explicit command?

The Jewish sages explained that the words, “Six days you shall labor,” are an elaboration on the previous verse, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” One of the important ways that we keep the Sabbath holy is by putting the Sabbath at the forefront of our minds during our work week.

For six days, we “remember the Sabbath day.” We count the days leading up to it in anticipation. By doing so, we elevate the Sabbath above the rest of the week. In other words, we “keep it holy.”

Your Turn:

How do you create sacred time for God and family in your life? Think of ways to honor and build anticipation for those special times.

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