These paragraphs from Sacred Rhythms seemed so obvious when I read them, yet Heschel’s comment in the second paragraph is something I have never considered before:
The rest of Sabbath is far more than withdrawal from labor and exertion. It is the rest and harmony of life as God intended it to be, an understanding that Howard Snyder equates with the biblical word shalom, which is God’s ultimate goal of health and wholeness for all humankind and the whole of creation.
For Heschel, “The essence of the world to come is Sabbath eternal, and the seventh day in time is an example of eternity … a foretaste of the world to come.” What an incredible and revolutionary way to think of this important day. The Sabbath should shape and give substance to the rest of our week. One day out of every seven we have an opportunity to glimpse eternity, to experience the joy, tranquility, peace, and abundance of life as God intended it.
No wonder Jesus healed on the Sabbath. No wonder he constantly criticized the legalisms and restrictive rules the Pharisees inflicted on the people. Those rules robbed the people of the Sabbath’s innate joy and freedom. Jesus wasn’t downplaying the importance of Sabbath as a holy day; he was bringing the Jews an understanding of what Sabbath was meant to be, the culmination of their week and of their lives, the goal of all they gave their time to — a glimpse into eternity when all will be healed, fed, and supported. Imagine how different our lives would be if we viewed the Sabbath day from this perspective! It would be a pleasure — a day for experiencing the joy of followship with God, nurturing relationships with others, and enjoying the glories of God’s creation.