Each time I have visited Israel, I have been profoundly astonished at how seriously the Sabbath is observed. Our tour agency and guides must work strategically to arrange sites we visit to ensure that we do not end up at a strictly Jewish site between Friday at sundown till Saturday at sundown.
One of my favorite stops is always Kefar Kedem, a community of Jewish folks who show us what Jewish culture would have been like thousands of years ago to help us better understand what we read in Scripture. Once while we were there, our host Menachem was explaining how they rest and reflect on the Sabbath each week.
Someone asked him, “But what do you do if you have to work on the Sabbath?” He replied that they didn’t work on the Sabbath. The person re-phrased the question, “Yes, but what if the company you work for is not owned and run by someone who is Jewish, and they don’t observe the Sabbath? What if they require you to work on the Sabbath?” Menachem’s reply was priceless. He cocked his head somewhat puzzled and replied, “We would never work for someone who required that.”
Our group was stunned. They were further stunned to find out that, although this community which seems to live in the old ways, they have Internet service, wifi, satellite TV and more. But they were completely blown away when Menachem said they shut it all off for the Sabbath. No TV. No browsing or surfing. No social media. No cell phones.
Sabbath. A break from the normal. Rest. Ceasing from the stuff that fills the other six days of the week.
For the last twenty-four hours, I did something really rare… I did not access any social media, and I did not check this blog. Admittedly, I Googled a couple of inquiries, and I texted a couple of people. But other than that, no electronic communication with the rest of the world. I didn’t start off doing it on purpose. I just decided that I would put off checking anything till the afternoon. Then I realized I hadn’t missed it and decided to go a little longer. By early evening, I had made it that long and figured I could make it until this morning.
And you know what? It was nice. It felt good to take a break. We Americans check out phones on average about five times an hour… once every twelve minutes. If we sleep eight hours, that leaves sixteen hours in a day. That means we check our phones about 80 times per day during our waking hours.
What if we discovered what God told His people about the reason He commanded the Sabbath break? What if we could grasp that He gave that break to us as a gift? What if we would set aside just our social media for twenty-four hours each week? We might just discover that we don’t HAVE to check it 80 times a day. We might talk with our family and friends more… and actually be focused on those conversations. We might read a little more and thereby learn a little more. We might play a little more and have a little more fun. And we might find that that break really is a gift.
I don’t know how successful I’ll be at doing this every week, but I think I want to try. And I hope that you will try with me. I don’t care which twenty-four hours you pick. I don’t care if you start at sun-up or sun-down. But let’s receive this gift in the same way we just received all those at Christmas… believing that someone gives it in love and for our joy!
If you’re bold enough to take a break with me, let me know… but not on your Sabbath… or mine!