Remember when your cell phone ran out of power just as you needed it most? Or worse – your car out of gas in the middle of nowhere, or worse yet – you, on any given day of overload, experiencing ‘major burn out’? These may seem like modern problems, but they’ve been addressed thousands of years ago, and in this week’s Torah episode, Mishpatim – Hebrew for ‘Laws’, the vital law for anti-burn-out is reiterated, among a motley crew of laws and regulations for kosher (aka holistic) living.
The one law that grabs our attention is the one that, perhaps, we need the most: how to take time out, and refresh, or recharge, or recreate. These are all synonyms for one mysterious word that appears here in relation to the keeping of the Sabbath – a word that means both the human soul AND the action that is required for ongoing maintenance of the soul. Somewhere in this linguistic puzzle is, perhaps, a key to sustainable living.
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your home-born slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. (JPS)
The word translated as refreshed is the Hebrew word naphash, translated elsewhere as ‘rest’, ‘quiet’, ‘pause’, or ‘may-pause-for-breath’.
The word Nephesh makes its first appearance in the creation narratives -Genesis 2:7: ‘And God blew into his nostrils the breath of life and Adam became a living being. The word translated here as being is nephesh, which shares the same root consonants as the word naphash for which our translators give us refreshed. The words in Hebrew are akin, but in English that kinship between ‘soul’ and ‘rest’ disappears.
For modern creatures craving sacred time, and effective time management, this word/law retrieves the concept of Re:Creation – another word that has lost its original force (re-creation) and now suggests everything from golf to drugs.
And so Lauviticus would like to suggest:
‘For six days you will work, and on the seventh day have rest, so that your household rests, and all who work for you, and with you may re-create.’
How do you recreate? And is it enough to recharge your batteries?