Shabbat is one of the most radical innovations of the religious mind. Its most profound statement is counterintuitive and yet, once experienced, utterly compelling: that in holding back from controlling the world, we allow the creative wellspring of life to shine through.
In any three dimensional space, you can move in six directions. The great sixteenth century master, Rabbi Judah Leow (the Maharal of Prague) taught that the six days of the week correspond to the six directions of movement. Shabbat adds a seventh direction; it is where we can travel to when we stand still. It is the majesty of the world within; a world of appreciation, of love and of deeper engagement with life itself. Contrast the multiple forms of communication and the machines which noisily surround us, with the sudden break from using them as Shabbat starts and we leave creative labours behind. At this time, we suddenly step back from actively shaping our environment and enter a day when we can see the wood for the trees, able to focus on appreciating the world we are building, rather than simply building it.
We can spend more time on real rather than virtual communications and relationships. It also gives us time and headspace to reconnect with God and the Torah’s vision for how we should live as Jews, something which can be challenging in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Like any journey, it requires vehicles to transport us there. The laws and traditions of Shabbat can appear as baffling to a non-scholar as the mechanics of any vehicle might seem to a non-engineer. Any regular user of the vehicle, however, can attest to the benefits of travelling in it. It is our sincere hope that the power of Shabbat can lift and inspire all of us to ever greater heights.
The Ghetto welcomed the Sabbath with proud song and humble feast All around, their neighbours sought distraction in the blazing public houses, and their tipsy bellowings resounded through the streets and mingled with the Hebrew hymns. Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto (London, 1893).