By tradition, a number of religions ask us to pause regularly from our workday responsibilities and to focus instead on our faith obligations by reflecting on our lives and renewing our relationship with God. This week’s clergy discuss the value of time off as the United States prepares to celebrate a major work holiday: Labor Day.
The Rev. Maxine Barnett
Curate, The Church of St. Jude, Wantagh
In times past, the “Lord’s Day” — Sunday — was a time for worship and family. Most businesses were closed and few sporting games, or nonreligious events, were scheduled. Times have changed, as the busyness of work and secular life increasingly encroach on this day, and we often yield to the demands to produce and excel even at the expense of our spiritual and physical well-being. Yet the Creator set the example and sanctified time set aside for rest. Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book, “The Sabbath” (FSG Classics), wrote that Sabbath rest becomes a way to find God’s presence. This rest is more than an interlude from the hectic workweek so that the community can gather for worship. It gives time to garner strength and direction for the days ahead. A prayer for Sundays found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, asks of God: “Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor . . . .” Additionally, rest gives time to notice, enjoy and share God’s blessings. God commands rest for people, animals and the land, for rest is also about renewal. Rest requires us to trust God with our overwhelming responsibilities and anxieties. Thus, Jesus invites all who are weary and carry heavy burdens to find rest in him. Rest is an important faith practice. Being intentional in spending holy, restorative and enjoyable moments with God, family and friends is to seek to replenish our body, mind and spirit.
Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
Congregation Beth Tikvah, Wantagh
In Judaism the seventh day of the week, or the day of rest, is called Shabbat (or Sabbath) — from the root word in Hebrew, “to cease.” On this day, the Almighty ceased from all work of creation and no longer had to interfere with it in order to improve it. The world was complete and perfect and the Almighty’s creation could rest — it could exist just as it was with all the components in it living in peace and harmony. We re-enact this phenomenon on the Sabbath. During the week, we must labor, engaging ourselves in various activities of creating the world anew, changing it from its natural state to make it a vessel worthy of man. On Shabbat we are at one with the world created. We are at peace with nature, with society and with ourselves. Once again we recognize that the Almighty’s world is perfect. We rest — “a rest of love freely given, a rest of truth and sincerity, a rest in peace and tranquillity, in quietude and safety” (as recited in the Shabbat afternoon prayer). Yet Shabbat is not only the holiest and most spiritual day of the week, it is a physically pleasurable day as well — a time of joy, of good food, wine and lavish dressing, a time when family and friends gather together for songs and stories. On Shabbat the world is not only in harmony with itself but also with the Almighty. The day of rest is both a spiritual and physical time of enjoyment. On Shabbat, these two experiences coalesce in complete harmony and merge into one magnificent whole, enhancing our appreciation of the Almighty and serving as a reflection of the one omnipotent Creator who created them.
Dr. Yousuf U. Syed
Trustee, Islamic Association of Long Island, The Selden Mosque
Muslims do not believe that God rested on the seventh day, or that God ever rests. He is always awake, conscious and mindful. But we do have a day of rest, in a sense, which is usually on Friday, after the group prayer with our congregations. After the prayer, we take time to reflect on what we have done in the previous week. We ask ourselves how our actions are justified according to Sunnah, the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. The prophet’s teaching, within the guidelines of the Quran, is that service to man is service to God. Every chapter of the Quran reminds us that we are obligated to give help to our fellow humans without regard to any reason or race. Islam has a tremendous concern for orphans, widows and indigent people, which we must take into consideration in our reflections. So in this resting time, we seclude ourselves and ask ourselves whether we have been charitable and given 2 1⁄2 percent of our entire earnings to charity. However, in no way is our resting time a representation that our God is taking rest on one day of the week.