What is Rest? Harder than you’d think!

April 6th, 2014

Rest.  I’m thinking about it today.  Rest is one of the 10 commandments, and is given in the Bible more than once:

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.” Exodus 34:21

“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… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20)

What is rest?  Have you ever tried resting?  I’m trying today.  It’s hard work, really.

Yes, today I have self-decreed a day off.  Lately I’ve been feeling exhausted.  Not just tired exhausted, but weary exhausted.  So today I didn’t even go to church, opting to rest instead.  I find church un-restful.  Church makes me tired.  In fact, sometimes it makes me so tired I go to sleep during the sermon.  Not to mention, driving to church is against the Jewish rabbinical prohibition of not travelling further than 1/2 a mile on the Sabbath.  Nevermind Sunday isn’t technically the Sabbath, and nevermind the rabbinical rules aren’t in the Bible so I don’t go by them.

When I lived in Israel I was exposed to the Jewish version of the Sabbath.  It starts sunset on Friday and lasts until sunset on Saturday.  The country of Israel grinds to a halt during this time, even today in the 21st century.  Public transportation stops and many stores close.  While the country is mostly secularized, there is still a certain amount of oddities like elevators which automatically open at each floor without the need for pushing the buttons (which would be work).

I remember there was something nostalgic in the greeting exchanged during this time of week.  “Shabbat Shalom,” Israelis would all say to each other, which means “Sabbath Peace.”  Just now looking it up I discovered the word Sabbath itself comes from the Hebrew verb shabat that means, “to cease.”  The idea is we are supposed to “cease” for one day a week.  It has been pointed out that God didn’t set the precedent of “resting” so much as he did of “ceasing,” because of course God doesn’t need to rest.  But… we need to rest.

Like most things in life that appear easy until one tries to do it themselves, resting is one of them.  If I’m restricting myself from work for a day, the big question becomes, “What is work?”  The Jews have struggled with this question since Moses gave the 10 Commandments, and have made up many a rule to define it.  They went overboard, and Jesus on more than one occasion called out their hypocrisy on the matter.  “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” Jesus asked rhetorically.  I killed a bunch of ants today, if that counts for anything.  I even sprayed ant poison around my bathroom, which was a double wammy as it was both work and destroying lives (ant lives).

I believe the heart of the matter was revealed when Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)  If the Sabbath was made for man then it wasn’t made for God or anyone else.  The sabbath wasn’t meant to be a burden, it was a gift.  It is given as obligatory common sense for humans.  God is our creator and he wired us up to work better with a day off each week.  Apparently he thought a little downtime was beneficial.

In America we have the weekend of two days off.  Having lived in several cultures where the weekend is only one day off (ahem, here in Haiti) it makes me appreciate the two day weekend.  Yesterday was Saturday, but it was a work day for me.  I was in the bakery at 6:30am, worked on and off throughout the day, and was wrapping things up in the bakery after 8pm. 

So today on my day off, I did do some laundry, which was work, but not too taxing because I just put it in the washing machine… and then hung it up on the line…  Then I’ve written two blog posts which might be work, but hard to say because I find that therapeutic.  I made some chocolate pudding, which was a little work, but at least I got to eat the pudding.  I made supper which involved slicing an onion and opening a can of spam with my knife.  I also watched a movie on my laptop: The Man From Snowy River which wasn’t work, but wasn’t very spiritual either. 

I think the idea of the Sabbath is to sit still and relax.  Decompress.  Think about life.  My problem is I could get used to taking a Sabbath every day.  I have to remember the other half of the commandment, “On six days you shall work.” 

Life is too short to rush through pell mell.  I am trying to live by the Bible, and the Bible clearly tells me to be lazy for one day a week.  Ok, time to publish this post so I can take another nap… zzz…. :-)

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