Keeping the Sabbath

The Bible says: but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. The origin of the word Sabbath has to do with rest. The interpretation of rest is of course whatever is given it by the Bible, or by those practicing it. For myself, it means nothing so stringent as not doing anything, as the Hebrews and too the puritans interpreted it, but instead, of enjoying the day free of specific duties and obligations.

The early settlers to New England took their Sundays seriously. People could be punished for doing any sort of work not permitted by necessity—cows, after all don’t stop producing milk nor animals go without feeding just because it’s the seventh day of the week, or the first, depending on your interpretation or your religion. While the Sabbath originated in Hebrew culture as a day of rest, it became a universal practice for the Christian world at large, migrating from Saturday to Sunday in 400 AD.

When I was growing up nothing commercial was open on Sundays except the drugstore. Church, of course offered services which we attended. Few gas stations served the public, and it was important to plan the Sunday drive on a full tank if possible. There was no running out for groceries if you didn’t already have them, and the Sunday roast beef, leg of lamb or chicken was part of the day in ours as in many households. My father would stop at the drugstore on his way home from church to pick up a couple of quarts of ice cream, packed tight by hand into round cardboard containers at the soda fountain counter. To this day Stephen and I always enjoy ice cream on Sundays.

The idea of the Sabbath was that a day to rest, a vacation from chores and duties, was good for human beings. I have for many years taken Sundays as a day of rest. What that means is that I don’t do any unnecessary tasks that day: no laundry, cleaning, or other housework or similar duties. I try to do only pleasant activities like writing, and of course sending out my column and Stephen’s. Resting for me is more about taking my time to do what I wish to do than sitting down or taking a nap. It could mean baking something or trying a special recipe just for fun, or even going somewhere nice for a walk and to take photos.

I was inspired to write this column by one of my daughters who phoned us up on a Sunday morning we had taken to sleep in. When I said the reason we were sleeping in was that it was Sunday, she said “Oh, but when you’re retired, every day is Sunday.” I told her we took Sundays as special days, and explained briefly. Being retired for me doesn’t mean a rocking chair, it means I have the privilege of choosing what I want to do when I want to do it as long as I am mindful of deadlines, of course. I do love Sundays, and cherish the guilt free duty-less hours they hold. 

Tasha Halpert

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