Due to economic and technological changes, Sundays are ceasing to be the day of rest they once were for most Americans, regardless of religious affiliation. In response, there has been renewed interest among Christian thinkers in reviving and restoring Sabbath observance—something Jews never lost. Benjamin J. Dueholm writes:
Foreshadowed in the creation story, God’s command to rest sets Israel apart from the Exodus onward. It is a costly command. The people, their foreign residents, and even the animals must rest. The land must rest. The widow must be released from her debt—at least for the length of a night’s sleep—and from the incessant demand to work in repaying it. Isaiah rails against the abuse of the Sabbath to gain competitive advantage, which undermines the ability of anyone to enjoy rest. This mandated idleness—15 percent of life—was so costly that it had to be general and it had to be enforced with fierce penalties. But these costs all underscore the drastic, unyielding, world-shaking claim that life—even the life of an ox—is in some sense its own end and not an instrument. Idleness is sacred in the Bible because it identifies the world with a living God whose greatest gift is rest and who rescued the people from slavery in a land where no rest was allowed. . . .
“The Sabbath,” writes Abraham Joshua Heschel, “is a day for the sake of life.” And this tradition—Heschel calls it a “palace in time”—that Judaism fought so hard to preserve set up outposts in the rest of life. These outposts are what the war on leisure is dismantling. And churches—by hoping, urging, or demanding that the faithful cut back on their commitment to travel hockey leagues—risk becoming mere bystanders. The ethos of the Sabbath goes much deeper than an individual commitment to prioritize worship. It includes all of those sacred practices, both affirmations and prohibitions, that have been kept alive in Judaism and are being fitfully recovered by Christians.