Who We Really Are
Yael Eckstein | October 27, 2022
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 ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. —Deuteronomy 5:14
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 how we define ourselves? For example, when I say that I am a Jew or that I am a mother, I am stating what I am. These are statements of identity. At the same time, we make similar statements when talking about our jobs. People will say, “I am a doctor” or “I am a salesman.” In other words, we all have multiple identities, roles, and titles that describe the various parts of our lives.
As the president and CEO leading a large international nonprofit organization, who is also a wife and a mother of four wonderful children, I think about this a lot. I put great effort into making sure that when I walk through the door of my home and see my children, I am Ima (Hebrew for mother).
Because we all spend so much time on our jobs, it’s human nature to identify with what we do for a living. Too many people prioritize career or financial status and define themselves in these terms. Which is why it’s so important that we remind ourselves who we really are, who we are before God, who we are in our families.
And this is one of the messages of Shabbat.
Who We Really Are
The Bible tells us that on Shabbat, everyone is equal. Our “work” identities are set aside. We read, “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 ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.”
Each Friday, as Shabbat approaches, I turn off my smartphone and put my purse away. And you know what’s in my purse? My wallet, credit cards, car keys, and many more items that are central to what I do during the week, my weekday identity. On Shabbat that is all set aside. My pockets are empty. It’s just me, Yael — mother, wife, and daughter — spending time with my family and God. I light the candles and welcome Shabbat into my home, and I am reminded that this is who I really am. The Sabbath reminds us of our true identity.
Think about your various “identities.” Take some time in prayer to remind yourself who you really are.