Religion & Beliefs

The Charge to Recharge

Click here for the audio version. Click here for the podcast. Remember when your cell phone ran out of battery when you needed it most? Or worse – your car ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Or … Read More

By / February 16, 2007

Click here for the audio version.

Click here for the podcast.

Remember when your cell phone ran out of battery when you needed it most? Or worse – your car ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Or worse yet – on any given day of overload, you experienced major burn-out? These may seem like modern problems, but they were addressed thousands of years ago. 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 (i.e. holistic) living. The one law that grabs our attention is the one that, perhaps, we need the most: how to take time to refresh, recharge, or recreate. These are all synonyms for one mysterious word that appears here in regard to the keeping of the Sabbath – a word that means both the human soul and the action that is required for the ongoing maintenance of the soul. Perhaps somewhere in this linguistic puzzle is 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 (Exodus 23:12, JPS).

The word translated as "refreshed" is the Hebrew word naphash, translated elsewhere as “rest,” “quiet,” “pause,” or “may-pause-for-breath.” The word for “being” here is nephesh, which shares the same root consonants as naphash. Nephesh makes its first appearance in the creation narratives: “And God blew into his nostrils the breath of life and Adam became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). While these Hebrew words are similar, in English, that kinship between “soul” and “rest” disappears. For modern creatures craving sacred time and effective time management, this word/law suggests the concept of “recreation” – another word that has lost its original definition (re-creation) and now means everything from golf to drugs.
And so Lauviticus would like to suggest: You will work for six days 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?