Shabbat is a central observance of Jewish tradition, known well beyond the Jewish world. In early times, Jews were ridiculed as lazy for setting aside one day a week in which they refrained from working. The ancient Romans considered it a sign of moral malaise.
In the modern world, reaction to Shabbat is more mixed; many people appreciate the benefits of turning off for one day a week.
I suspect that in the future Shabbat will be appreciated for another reason. As jobs are replaced by machines, and tasks outsourced to computers, we will start to ask, ‘What shall we do with our time if we no longer need to work?’
Shabbat provides the answer. Shabbat was never about just refraining from work. It’s about dedicating one day a week to our spiritual lives. Human beings are ultimately spiritual beings. A meaningful life is built on knowledge, culture, society, values and spiritual quests. Shabbat makes space for what is ultimately more important.
Shabbat is a huge challenge. We are challenged to give up potential income, to control our use of technology. But the greatest challenge is learning how to build meaningful lives without the imperative of work.
No wonder Shabbat is considered equal to the entire Torah.
[This is taken from the publication “The Ten (Masorti) Commandments.” The full brochure can be found here.]