More Than a Holiday

Yael Eckstein  |  October 20, 2022

Shabbat table

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’” —Leviticus 19:1-2

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.

Have you ever thought about the word “holiday”?

When people go on vacation from work, they’ll say they’re “taking a holiday.” We also use the word to describe important days on the civic calendar like Labor Day. But the word “holiday” is really a modernization of the two words, “holy day.” And I think it’s pretty clear that not every holiday is a “holy day.”

So what makes a day holy? What makes anything holy? For example, I live in Israel, the Holy Land. We see in the Bible that there are holy places and holy days. The Jewish people are called a holy people (Deuteronomy 14:2). There is even a commandment to be holy!

There is an ancient tradition that the true meaning of a word can best be found by looking at the first time the word appears in the Bible. So what’s the first thing in the Bible to be called holy?

More than a Holiday

We read in Genesis 2:3, “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

All the way at the beginning of time, at the end of the story of Creation, the seventh day of the week was made holy by God.

In Hebrew, the word for “holy,” kadosh, means “set aside for godly purposes.” Now, isn’t everything in our lives set aside for God’s purposes? Yes and no.

It’s true that everything we do must ultimately be aligned with God and contribute to His Kingdom. But that doesn’t mean when we are at work, engaging in our relationships, or making our day-to-day decisions we are always consciously focused on God. And that’s okay. God wants us to live our lives in this world.

But on Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, we put everything else on the back burner and we focus on Him. Shabbat is much more than a day of rest. To put it another way, Shabbat is more than a holiday. It’s a holy day.

Your Turn:

Interested in learning more about the Sabbath? Join me on my podcast, Nourish Your Biblical Roots to listen to my new five-part series on the Shabbat which begins on Sunday.