For the past 35 years, a pink bunny wearing flip-flops and sunglasses and beating a drum has been a staple in American advertising. The Energizer Bunny has endless energy and has become a symbol of perseverance, longevity and determination. The Energizer Bunny never runs out of energy! But what would happen if we were all like the Energizer Bunny? What would our lives look like?
To answer this question, let’s take a critical look at the first time the Sabbath was observed:
On the seventh day Hashem finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. (Genesis 2:2)
After six days of creation, God Himself stopped. Why was this necessary? God never gets tired, so why would He need a day off? This is like the Energizer Bunny taking a vacation!
Some explain that God did not actually stop creating on the seventh day. He simply created something altogether different than what came before. He created menucha, usually translated as “rest.” But what does it mean to create “rest”? Isn’t rest just the absence of work?
Many people today suffer from the cult of productivity. All too often, we tie our self-worth to how productive we are. Our lives become all about doing instead of being. This anxiety comes from a healthy ambition to maximize our potential. We all want to make the world a better place, and there’s lots of work to be done. But when we take this to the extreme, we never feel happy with ourselves because there is always more work to be done.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of Hashem your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. (Exodus 20:9-10)
As people of faith, we are called to work hard for six days but then to rest on the Sabbath. On the Sabbath, we are meant to feel like kings, to feel entirely content – as if we have everything that we need. On the Sabbath, we strive to taste a little bit of the ultimate serenity of the world to come. This is why Jewish tradition refers to the Sabbath as a microcosm of heaven itself.
Why did God have to create rest?
During the first six days, God taught the world creativity and productivity. Had the story of creation ended here, we would assume that Man is meant to work as much as possible, slowing down only to catch his breath and recharge as necessary. But by creating the Sabbath, God is calling on us to taste the contentment and perfection of the world to come, every single week.
If you had the strength of an Energizer Bunny you could work without stopping, but you would be missing out. The Sabbath is not just about recharging for more work, but rather an opportunity to live in the moment and taste serenity.