Mapping Life’s Routes: Lessons from Waze and the Sabbath

By: Rabbi Yaakov Wolff
September 7, 2023

For the past 15 years, Waze has been the top choice for navigation apps. Its standout feature is real-time traffic updates from users, which help you dodge traffic snarls with clever shortcuts. Waze also suggests places to park, find gas, share rides, and more. But there’s one thing that Waze can’t assist you with.

When describing the Sabbath day in Exodus 20, the Torah charges us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, refraining from work and resting on the seventh day. The section concludes:

For in six days Hashem made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore Hashem blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11)

This translation follows the basic meaning of this verse, that it took God six days to create the world, followed by the Sabbath, the day when He rested. But there is another way to think about it: Understood literally, the verse could mean “God created six days,” meaning that God made a world that could last only for six days. The six days were then followed by the Sabbath, giving the world another six days until the following Sabbath starts the cycle all over again.

Why did God set the week up like this?

When we put all of our energy into work, we can achieve a lot. But it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. The constant hustle can consume us, leaving us little time and energy for our family, community, and spiritual pursuits. The Sabbath makes us stop and refocus on what’s really important. Refraining from work doesn’t just allow us increased leisure, rather it creates a space to reflect on our values.  This way, we stay connected to what truly matters in this world.

That’s why God designed a system in which the world gets a fresh start every seventh day. He wanted us to be continually connected to higher ideals. Creation was limited to six days. The cycle of creation was intentionally set to conclude after day six, ensuring that the Sabbath arrives as a timely reminder to keep us from straying from what truly matters. It is this time of reflection and refocus on the purpose of creation, and what is really important in this world, that allows for its continued existence.

Waze can help us out in many ways during our journey, but it’s up to us to pick the destination. On regular days, we’re moving ahead with our life goals, speeding up, changing lanes, and avoiding traffic. But when the Sabbath arrives, we pause to think about where we’re headed. This helps us start the new week with a clear sense of purpose.

Rabbi Yaakov Wolff

Rabbi Yaakov Wolff

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