This misguided and shallow understanding of the Sabbath would have usbelieve that man's noblest goal is physical toil rather than moments ofspiritual reflection. But the fact that the Sabbath is the holiest day ofthe week--by far transcending the six preceding days of work--belies thistheory. On the contrary, in Judaism the six days of work are all apreparation for the one glorious day of rest.
Still, the chaotic times that we live in are governed by emergencies inwhich everything seems urgent and pressing. Never before has man been soharried. The ambient noise of life is constantly punctuated by ringingmobile phones, dinging tones of e-mail messages awaiting urgent answers, and thehigh-pitched screams of fax machines.
But ours is the most literate, educated, and informed generation of all time--surely we know the difference between the ephemeral andthe eternal, the urgent and the important! But while we may know thedifference, do we have the courage to respect that difference? Ifrecognizing and honoring the truly important means missing out on the nextbig account/deal/job/trade--are we willing to make that sacrifice?
Surely this is not because parents today love their children any less thanparents did in the past. Indeed, we all recognize that time spent withchildren is important. So we sit down to play with our children or to readthem a story. But suddenly, the phone rings. And while our children aresurely much more important than the phone call, the call is urgent. Later,when we return to the story (now cranky and migraine-inflicted as we havejust learned that our financial portfolio has taken a dive), we look at ourwatch and remember that the gym will only be open for another half hour, soonce again we run to accomplish the urgent and in the process compromise thetruly important.
It is for this reason that G-d gave man the Sabbath, a 24-hourperiod in which nothing whatsoever is urgent. The Sabbath is not aboutlearning a sense of priorities. Rather it is about being elevated to ahigher sense of reality. On the Sabbath, we discover that what we thinkof as urgent is actually nonexistent. When a father discovers the truepleasures of playing with his children, making money becomes simplyutilitarian. The two are utterly incomparable. One is real and everlasting;the other is ephemeral and illusory.
Imagine: A family sits down at the Sabbath table to partake of the Sabbathfeast. The father makes the blessing on the cup of wine, which is then drunkby the entire family. They wash their hands for the eating of the challah,the special braided Shabbos bread, and then indulge in the sheer peace,serenity, and pleasure of the Shabbos feast.
My dentist is an orthodox Jew and a close friend. On one occasion, he put afilling in my tooth that dissolved the very next day. I could not eat onthat side of my mouth and called him at home, telling his daughter that itwas urgent. She returned to the phone saying that her father waspreoccupied. "Tell him it's an emergency. My filling has fallen out." Sheagain returned to the phone. "My Daddy said that he is celebrating hismother's 82nd birthday, and you will just have to call him in the morning atthe office." The Bible says that honoring one's parents is a sacred duty.My tooth--not being as important as a mother's birthday--would have towait.
Now, imagine if we could each make just make two hours every day into apersonal Sabbath. A mother sits to play with her children on a Wednesdayevening. The phone rings, but she refuses to answer it. Her children are herSabbath. A man talks to his wife when he returns from work. The time hespends working on his marriage is sacred time that cannot be infiltrated.While he knows that the game that will make or break his fantasy footballteam is on, he chooses instead to share with his wife the stories of theirrespective days. He has made his wife the Sabbath.
The first step in reorganizing our priorities and strengthening ourrelationship with G-d and our loved ones is to set aside two periods eachday that must be treated as the Sabbath. This pause lends us dignity. It means that we can switch off, that we are not beasts of burden born for the yoke. Every morning upon awakening, wemust offer prayers to G-d from the depths of our heart and without anyinterruption, thanking Him for all that we have and imploring Him for ourdaily bread. And second, when we arrive home from work each evening, we mustgive our spouse and children uninterrupted quality time, never to beinfiltrated by transient concerns. And when we live by this ethic, we will transform ourselves from human doings, into human beings.