The Sabbath as Antidote to the Modern Work Ethic

Sept. 21 2018

In a time when cell phones, email, and other technological advances, combined with economic changes, create situations in which work can pervade all of life, a revival of the Sabbath might be more necessary than ever, writes William Black:

In place of an economy built upon the profit motive—the ever-present need for more, in fact the need for there never to be enough—the Sabbath puts forward an economy built upon the belief that there is enough. The Sabbath’s radicalism should be no surprise given the fact that it originated among a community of former slaves. The Ten Commandments constituted a manifesto against the regime that they had recently escaped, and a rebellion against that regime was at the heart of their God’s identity, as attested to in the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” When the ancient Israelites swore to worship only one God, they understood this to mean, in part, that they owed no fealty to the pharaoh or any other emperor.

It is therefore instructive to read the fourth commandment in light of the pharaoh’s labor practices described earlier in the book of Exodus. He is depicted as a manager never satisfied with his slaves. . . . The pharaoh orders that the slaves no longer be given straw with which to make bricks; they must now gather their own straw, while the daily quota for bricks would remain the same. When many fail to meet their quota, the pharaoh has them beaten and calls them lazy.

The fourth commandment presents a God who, rather than demanding ever more work, insists on rest. The weekly Sabbath placed a hard limit on how much work could be done and suggested that this was perfectly all right; enough work was done in the other six days. And whereas the pharaoh relaxed while his people toiled, the Lord insisted that the people rest as He rested: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.”

The Sabbath, as described in Exodus and other passages in the Torah, had a democratizing effect. God’s example—not forcing others to labor while He rested—was one anybody in power was to imitate. It was not enough for you to rest; your children, slaves, livestock, and even the “strangers” in your towns were to rest as well. The Sabbath wasn’t just a time for personal reflection and rejuvenation. It wasn’t self-care. It was for everyone.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Aeon

More about: American society, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Sabbath

Iranian Attacks in the Persian Gulf Require a Firm Response

June 17 2019

In the past few days, Iran has carried out several attacks on oil tankers in the vicinity of Persian Gulf, and attempted to shoot down a U.S. observation drone. These attacks follow other recent acts of sabotage on the oil trade in the region—and that’s not to mention the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s missile strike last week on a Saudi civilian airport that injured 26 people. David Adesnik urges the White House to send a clear message to Tehran:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Fox News

More about: Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy