DOES G-D GET SLEEPY?
Rabbi Elly Berlin
Does G-d get sleepy? Obviously not. Why then does the Torah, which uses words so sparingly, spend a full paragraph describing His day of rest, the Sabbath, in three separate places? We first learn of the Sabbath in the second chapter of Genesis, after the description of the six days of creation, where it is written that G-d rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3).
Does G-d get sleepy? Obviously not. Why then does the Torah, which uses words so sparingly, spend a full paragraph describing His day of rest, the Sabbath, in three separate places? We first learn of the Sabbath in the second chapter of Genesis, after the description of the six days of creation, where it is written that G-d rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3). Then, in the Torah portion of Yitro we are given the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment is to guard and remember the Sabbath, and we are reminded again that G-d created the world in six days and that He rested on the seventh day (Exodus 20: 8-11). Finally, in this week's Torah portion, between the description of how to construct the sanctuary and Moses receiving the tablets, the Torah mentions the Sabbath again. It states for the third time that G-d created heaven and earth in six days and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed (Exodus 31:12-17).
Oftentimes, a teacher who loves his students and wants them all to succeed, will emphatically repeat the same phrase over and over again throughout a semester. The student who pays attention during the lecture, or those who review their notes before the exam, will realize the importance of that particular concept and will study it well. They will then reap the reward of high scores when they take the exams and find that this concept is heavily stressed.
G-d is our teacher and He loves us all. He has purposely stressed the importance of the Sabbath by repeating it multiple times. By devoting one of the Ten Commandments to the Sabbath, G-d tells us that observing Sabbath is an important foundation of a Torah lifestyle. By sandwiching Sabbath observance between the construction of the sanctuary and the receiving of the tablets in this week's Torah portion, G-d tells us that even building His sanctuary and serving Him through Torah observance is not a good enough reason to violate the Sabbath. In fact, the only allowance for transgression of Sabbath laws is the actions necessary to save a human life in the event of an emergency.
Sabbath is a perfect example of the necessary maintenance required for both the body and soul. By resting on the Sabbath, G-d was explaining to us how we function. After working for six full days, we need to take a rest and be refreshed. It is interesting to note that the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. A major contributing risk factor for heart disease is stress.
Within the human body, there is a nervous system an awesome and extensive network of nerve fibers which controls and coordinates the function of all cells and organs in the body. Functionally, the nervous system is divided into two opposing parts the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic nervous system takes control when we are under stress. It increases the rate and vigor of our heart contractions, increases our blood pressure and breathing rate and as a result, slows down non-emergent processes such as digestion. In our society, this sympathetic system is almost always in control. It starts with the blaring alarm clock early in the morning and remains in control throughout the stressful day at work or school. Then, it persists as you sit in rush hour traffic during the drive home where you will no doubt be faced with the daily disturbing contents of the mailbox, answering machine, e-mail, newspaper, television, radio news, etc.
Given a chance to take control, the parasympathetic nervous system would work to lower our heart rate and decrease our blood pressure, slow down our breathing and enhance our digestion. When does this happen? When we rest. In fact, we are commanded to rest one full day of every week.
Each Jew has the opportunity to experience a sense of Shabbat on the seventh day of the week. Each of us can continually work to improve our Shabbat experience. Perhaps we can give up one weekday activity and replace it with a Shabbat activity like singing zemirot (Jewish songs), reading a Jewish book, or attending a Torah class. By enhancing our individual observance of Shabbat, we will strengthen ourselves and be able to accomplish even more during the week.
Rabbi Elly Berlin is studying the art, science, and philosophy of chiropractic at Life University in Atlanta.
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