Shabbat, Shalem, and Shalom

Image: A sunset. (annca/Pixabay)

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world… – The Sabbath, p. 10, by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Heschel sets up a dichotomy: “the tyranny of things of space” versus “holiness in time.”  The former is a straightforward concept: we work during the week to fulfill our needs for survival: food, water, clothing for warmth, a place to rest, safety, etc. If we are fortunate, our labors move us up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to less basic needs, to things such as a sense of belonging and esteem: a place in the community, and a sense of worth. Maslow caps his pyramid with “self-actualization,” which he described as the human need to become the most that one can be. All of these things are centered on the self, and they are indeed good and necessary things. We cannot continue to live without meeting our most basic needs, and a life with only minimal survival needs met is a hard life.

However, a Jew seeks more, to be “attuned to holiness in time.” This means that on one day a week, we stop our constant striving and instead, we listen. Instead of making and doing, we pause and reflect. Holiness in time is not about survival. Rather it is the wellspring of shalem and shalom, wholeness and peace, two words from a single root.

We cannot acquire wholeness or peace. They are not commodities to be bought and sold, made or manufactured. Instead we discover them, and they discover us. In this case, “discover” is truly dis-cover, to un-cover, for once we find them, we know that wholeness and peace, shalem and shalom, were there all along.

This Shabbat, let us open our hearts to peace and wholeness. Allow for  the possibility that shalem and shalom already exist within us, only we have been too busy to perceive them. Once the busy-ness has ceased, once the yammer of news and entertainment have stopped, once our striving for food and shelter and diversion has paused, the truth of creation will open before us.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

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