Heaven on EarthSeptember 3, 2012 - 5:00 am
“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” — Psalm 122:1
If you were to imagine heaven on earth, what would it look like? A tropical paradise? A mountaintop hide-away? A place where all your favorite people are gathered? A place that is stress-free — no disease, no disasters, no disappointments?
What about a place where it is always the Sabbath?
In the Jewish faith, that is exactly how heaven — or the world to come — is described. Life in heaven is described as a time when it is always Sabbath, a time when the beauty and tranquility of Shabbat (Hebrew for Sabbath) are constantly felt. In other words, Jews believe that the observance of Shabbat enables us to experience a taste of that world to come and gives us a glimpse of that ideal state of creation experienced by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The concept of Sabbath is so central to the Jewish faith and life. More Jewish literature — legal, mystical, and homiletic — has been written on this topic than on any other. It is described by the rabbis as shekulah kineged kol hamitzvot, “of equal import to all the rest of the commandments put together.” Those who observe the Sabbath are regarded as if they have observed the entire Torah.
Everything we do points to Shabbat. It is a day that rejuvenates our spirits, replenishes our strength, and revitalizes us so that we can face another week. But it has a deeper meaning as the epitome of sanctified living. The Sabbath is observed not for the sake of the rest of the week, but rather, the rest of the week is the prologue for the arrival of Shabbat. We live each day in anticipation of the Sabbath.
What would it look like if you fashioned your week in anticipation of spending time with God? If you carved out time each week when — truly — no work was done, phones were turned off, the TV was silent? How might this refresh and rejuvenate you? How might it change your relationship with God?
As the Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel wrote, the Sabbath is “an island in time.”
Sounds a bit like heaven on earth, doesn’t it?