Sabbath starts in the evening.
In Jewish tradition, all days start in the evening, because “there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Genesis 1:4)
This is marked with a ritual meal where candles are lit, hands are washed, bread and wine shared and blessings spoken before we tuck into our roast chicken. It’s not a solemn affair, but has become for us the cornerstone of week around which everything else moves. When we’re not at home, we take our ritual with us. We’ve done it while camping, at restaurants and even on a plane!
Sabbath prep. starts the day after Sabbath!
In order to take a day of rest as God did in Genesis 2:2-3 and as God told his people to do in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:8-11), I need to work towards it from the first day of the week (the day after Sabbath!). For this reason, one of my immediate post-Sabbath jobs is to put on a load of washing. Washing was the first job which I chose to be one I have a rest from on my Sabbath, so I have to get going with it straight away to give myself a chance to get enough done to be able to not wash clothes for a day! My goal is always to get all the clean clothes put away by Friday afternoon so that I don’t have to look at them and to give myself that great feeling of completion, which is a concept woven into the Hebrew word Sabbath. (Did you notice in Genesis 2 it says that God finished his work of creation?)
Of course, house work is never fully complete, just as our rest isn’t fully complete, but taking a day to practice rest is a way of preparing for and looking forward to the day when God gives us complete rest.
Sabbath starts in me
Sometime, ahem, often we come to the Shabbat meal tired, hungry and less than optimally peace-filled! I like to to see Sabbath as a gift God has given us, and that it’s worth battling through tiredness and hanger-grumps to unwrap it! If we let our feelings stop us from entering into the peace of Sabbath, we are missing out on an incredible gift! Sabbath starts because I start it inside myself and work hard to bring my ‘peace’ to the table.
Sometimes we say the first blessing then quickly serve the food to give our bodies the nourishment we need to do the rest of the blessings and prayers peacefully.
For me this is a picture of what Sabbath does for us – by stopping our work, by resting and marking the day as special and different, we give power to the rest of the week as we focus on being filled with things we really need to be who were created to be.
The peace of Sabbath because something I can hook into every day when I pause from work, when I rest with a cup of tea. Sometimes I light a candle with my tea. When we light the two Shabbat candles (to represent, among other things, how Sabbath appears both in the creation and the ten commandments stories), I waft the light towards my face, welcoming the light of God in my life. The repetition of this simple action helps me ‘login’ to the sense of God’s presence which we mark by lighting candles at Shabbat.
These small moments are part of the way I let Sabbath seep into the rest of the life.
Do you practice rest?
What might Sabbath look like for you?