Serving God through Rest

Yael Eckstein  |  February 2, 2021

Yael and daughters usher in Shabbat

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 animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.” — Exodus 20:9-11

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means “Jethro,” from Exodus 18:1–20:23

I am so grateful to God for my busy weeks, even when they are exhausting. They remind me how fortunate I am to serve God in the capacity of a wife, mother of four children, and as President and CEO of The Fellowship. But I am also exceedingly grateful for the weekly Sabbath which gives me time to relax and recharge. It reminds me that sometimes the best way to serve God is through rest.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the Ten Commandments, the fifth of which commands: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath… On it you shall not do any work.” The Hebrew for “you shall labor” is “ta’avod,” which can also mean “you shall serve.” Accordingly, the Jewish sages suggested an alternate way to read the verse: “Six days you shall serve God by doing all of your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath… and you shall serve God by not doing any work.”

Serving God by Resting

Sometimes we serve God through the work of our hands, but the Sabbath teaches us that at other times the way to serve God is by resting. How can resting be service to God?

Maimonides, the renowned 12th-century rabbi and physician, taught, “If a person sleeps in order to allow his mind to rest and to give rest to his body so that he should not become sick and unable to serve G-d because of illness, in this case his very sleep is service of G-d.”

It all depends on our intent. If we eat so that we can have energy to serve God, then our eating is in service to Him. If we exercise so that we have strength to serve God, then our exercise is in service to Him. If we rest so that we can serve Him with joy and strength, then resting, too, can be service to God.

Sometimes, we serve God by working hard at contributing to His purposes. And sometimes, the greatest thing that we can do for the glory of God is to do nothing at all.

Your Turn:

What do you do to rest and recharge so that you can serve God with strength and joy? Share in the comments below.

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