From the perspective of a Jerusalem Encounter participant:
Summer – A time when we spend weeks getting the deepest tans by even deeper pools.
More like, “Yeah right!.”
In reality, most of this season reflects the rest of the year. We fill our lives to the brim with work, school, and more than the daily dose of responsibility. Instead of soaking up the sun, we’re stuck doggy paddling in the deep end to keep our heads above the water. Our social media posts show that, “life is good!” while our souls scream for the attention they need.
It’s been a few weeks since my feet hit the US soil after spending a month in Jerusalem, Israel. Without skipping a beat, I fell back into the rapid rhythm of chasing the “American Dream.”
Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Seven. Days. A Week.
And then, there’s this:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
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.” — Exodus 20:8-11
Take a second to imagine what this verse looks like – a day unto the Lord with no work.
Did you know that for one nation, this is a reality?
There is a society that has made the Sabbath a statute. In Israel, a weekly day of rest is embedded into the very DNA of the culture and value system.
What does it really look like?
Imagine walking in the middle of the market at 1:00pm on Friday.
Packed is an understatement. The humid heat radiates off the people you’re sharing personal space with. Everyone is pushing, reaching and yelling to get what they need before it’s too late.
Sounds like a living metaphor of life, doesn’t it?
Fast forward to 8:00pm. The standing room only streets are vacant. The restaurants, empty.
The rush and noise that fill six days are hushed by the stillness of Shabbat (the Sabbath), which begins Friday at sundown and concludes at sundown Saturday.
Public transportation stops, cars find their parking spots, and families find their homes. Smiling men find their wives, who greet their bouquet-bearing husbands. The last meal of the week has been set: Shabbat Dinner. Everyone is preparing to rest.
As people get in their last minute shopping they wish each other the simple yet profound “Shabbat Shalom.”
In the U.S., you hardly exit a store without hearing “have a good day.” But do we really stop to consider what a “good” day means? To me? To you? We’re left with our own interpretation, or more likely, an apathetic internal response of going through the motions.
But Shabbat Shalom carries a specific and extraordinary meaning to the people of Israel, and it’s reserved for once a week.
What does it mean?
The meaning of shalom is “peace,” or “the absence of war.” Its context and origins communicate an inner “completeness” and “wholeness.” (For more understanding of its historical meaning, click here).
Shabbat, “the Sabbath,” is derived from the Hebrew word shevet, meaning “to dwell,” and also relates to shevat, the number seven.
When you combine these words and overlay their meanings, the image for what “Shabbat Shalom” begins to emerge:
May you dwell in peace/completeness/wholeness on the seventh day.
In other words, as you take time to rest and honor the Lord, I pray you experience true peace and become whole again.
Shabbat is an invitation to come and worship, in a beautiful exchange that revives and strengthens our souls.
Often, our default belief that the Sabbath is a rigid religious requirement makes our understanding of it far more limited than Jesus.’ Instead of a day to recognize God’s love in our lives, we fall into obligation.
Shabbat is a declaration of trust which we demonstrate with our time. God designed it to remind us of our dependence on Him and not on our own ability to provide.
No more working, earning, or striving.
On this day, we get to rest in His love. Clocked out, mask off.
When the sources of our pride are stripped away, everything that kept us from humbly receiving love is removed. And, after six days of pouring out, we need more than “a break.” We need to be filled.
Honestly, my first Shabbat in Jerusalem was a little… well, eerie. For someone who can go to Walgreens on Thanksgiving Day for napkins, empty streets and shops are unfamiliar. A bustling city became a ghost town in just a few hours.
But the discomfort of stark stillness soon turned to delight. As I stopped to embrace the silence, I realized…
I need this.
We need this.
God intended for us to have this –
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
— Matthew 11:28
In other words,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”
— Matthew 11:28 MSG
In a world that never stops, God invites us to come home.
Home is a place we all long for. The invitation to come home is one to be loved. Not because of what we accomplish, but who we are.
We may not live in a city that wishes us “Shabbat Shalom” every Friday, but we still have a choice.
To accept the invitation. To declare trust with our lives. To come home.
My prayer is that this picture has reframed the beautiful depths of the Sabbath, and that you, like me, are inspired to dive in.
Welcome home. Shabbat Shalom!