Shabbat Shabbaton, the sabbath of sabbaths.
This is the name for Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. A day G-d gave us to have the opportunity to rest. We often don’t realize the importance of rest in different spheres of our life. Our body sometimes reminds us when we don’t sleep enough, it simply shuts down and our brain can’t function. We become irritated until we get some sleep and recover. Doctors used to be on call for 48-72 hours until the tragic death of an 18-year-old girl (Libby Zion). A law was then created called the Libby Zion law, adopted in the US, limiting resident doctors’ work hours to 80 hours per week and the call to 24 hours max. Well, the same applies to the day of rest during the week. The Jewish idea of a 6-day work week wasn’t accepted by the world when it was first introduced some 2,000 years ago by the Jews. It required the grit of the Jewish people to survive and become adopted by the world. Despite persecution and humiliation by the pagans, even prompting the desire to kill the Jews (Haman- in Persia, as read in the Megillah of Esther). Eventually, the world accepted it- Christians first followed Saturday, then to be different chose Sunday and the Muslims chose Friday. But besides a selfish need to rest wouldn’t others need it too? Each has their own limit or to paraphrase Einstein, everything, even time is relative. Thus, G-d decreed that once a year our soul should rest too- yes it can keep memories of hurt and pain for a long time but memories of hurt are heavy to carry. Eventually they make us weaker and inhibit our progress, shackling us as we carry this weight throughout our lives. Thus, G-d gave us this Shabbat Shabbaton to remind us to let go of the heavy load on our souls and minds so we can forgive and not continue to stress and hurt ourselves, weakening our immune system.
The land should have a Shabbat too- this year is the first year after the Shmita year (last New Year 9/2021- to this New Year 9/2022). It’s a year when G-d tells us to let the land rest and not harvest its fruits, allowing the poor people to eat from our vineyards and the animals to eat whatever the poor people leave. It is also a year when G-d ordered the Jews to release all debts- a very difficult thing to do since few wanted to give debts a year before (on the 6th year) the 7th year when they’d have to release the debt (Hillel made rules to help avoid this desire by making practical amendments that would permit loans to be granted and collected by the court instead of the person, thus avoiding this ban and financial fear-burden of helping the poor on that last year).
The older I get the more I learn about the history of our world and appreciate the links between historical events & biblical laws.
In 1930-31 greatest financial crisis in the US, 1944-1945 WW2 ended, 2007-8 global recession, 50% of US stock market value wiped out- all corresponding to Shmita years. (There are many more examples but I just chose a few.)
Thus a Shabbat, a rest time, is needed for every aspect of our healthy functional being. Daily rest is needed for our mind to function, a weekly rest for our body, a yearly rest for our soul, and a 7th-year rest for our country, our land & its economy.
The dangers of not following it is to the quality of our lives, our peace of mind, and the peace of the world and humanity have been proven. Sadly, due to our relatively short life span and our memory’s poor ability to connect the dots, our conclusions lag behind. As with most lessons, the lessons of this law of rest sadly are often only realized in hindsight and those who follow them are first seen as “strangers in a strange land” or as a scourge that needs to be wiped out (the Natzis leading to the Holocaust).
I am reminded of a quote by Mark Twain my Dad used to tell me when I argued with him: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” Eventually, the “irrational” ways of the strange people survive and G-d’s hope for his world and his people (all nations, all the decedents of Adam & Eve) will be realized. May we learn the lessons and become wiser soon. Wishing you all a meaningful fast and restful Shabbat Shabbaton.