Our Rest from the World

Yael Eckstein  |  October 25, 2022

Yael and daughters usher in Shabbat.

There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD. —Leviticus 23:3

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.

Even though Shabbat is a day of rest, Friday afternoon — the hours leading up to the beginning of Shabbat — is a hectic time in a Jewish home. Everyone’s running around, showering, getting dressed for synagogue services, and putting the finishing touches on the food preparation. Then, just before sunset, everything stops and quiet sets in.

As the woman of the household, I light the Shabbat candles and recite the traditional blessing welcoming the Sabbath. My husband, children, and I kiss each other and wish each other Shabbat shalom, a Sabbath of peace. At the synagogue, we join our community in soulful singing and worship.

Our Friday night Shabbat prayers begin: “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (Psalm 95:1–2).

Our Rest from the World

After services, we return home to a beautifully set table and a delicious meal. Unlike during the week, no one rushes anywhere. We talk about our week, laugh, sing, and discuss inspiring ideas from the Torah.

I often joke that our Shabbat meals are like holy therapy sessions, but that is truly what it’s like. Shabbat gives us permission to let go of our worries and fill our souls with godliness. Around the Shabbat table, we are unbound by the constraints of weekdays and have limitless time to focus on God and each other.

So, Shabbat is indeed a day of rest, but not only in the conventional sense of the term, “rest.” Let me share with you a beautiful passage from the Shabbat afternoon prayer liturgy:

“… a rest of love and generosity, a rest of truth and faith, a rest of peace, serenity, tranquility, and security, a perfect rest in which You find favor. May Your children recognize and know that their rest comes from You, and through their rest, they will sanctify Your name.”

The Sabbath is more than just putting your feet up and taking a nap. Shabbat is “rest” from the world. Jewish sages taught that the Sabbath is “a taste of the world to come.” Indeed, for us, it’s a little taste of paradise.

Your Turn:

What might you and your family do to create “a taste of paradise” during your busy week? Let me know in the comment section below what you do.