This week’s Torah portion contains a rather disturbing verse. In Exodus chapter 35:2 we read: “On six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day, you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Eternal One; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.”

Death? For not resting? Seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? As a Reform Jew, I look to the Torah for spiritual lessons. What can we take from this terrible punishment for non-Sabbath observance?

Science teaches us all about the importance of rest. Chronic stress lowers immune response. In the short term, this can mean increased headaches and instances of the common cold. In the long term, it can result in: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, some studies even say cancer. So yes, chronic, unrelieved stress can indeed cause death.

But take it back another step. Lets say that your work doesn’t really cause chronic stress. Maybe you enjoy your work. What then? Why is this rest necessary?

Taking a break from work gives you a chance to renew and revive, to reconnect with family and friends. This break can not only ultimately enhance your work, but have a positive influence on the way that you enjoy your life and relate to others. Neglecting to take this renewal time can also cause a sort of death – a death of the spirit.

So let’s say that you decide to take that Sabbath rest. Does this mean that you need to stop turning on and off lights? What is the Sabbath rest? As Reform Jews, we believe in educated choices. I strongly believe that people should try a lot of different ways to observe the Sabbath in order to find the one that is most fulfilling to them. Turning off the electrical appliances for 24 hours can be a fascinating, and very restful experience.

There was an interesting discussion on a few weeks back about the question of knitting on the Sabbath (forbidden by Orthodox halachah). I will come back to that discussion in another post…

Shabbat Shalom!!   Have a restful and renewing Sabbath!