From “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” by Marva J. Dawn
One of the reasons that I am so attracted to the Jewish observance of the Sabbath day is that throughout the history of Judaica there has been an emphasis on the beauty of the day, especially in the concept of Queen Sabbath, for whom the house is made ready and all things are intended to be lovely. In a society such as ours, scarred by hatred and violence, there is a tremendous need for great intentionality concerning beauty.
The Jewish liturgy for Sabbath eve includes the lovely hymn ”Lechah Dodi” (“Come, My Beloved”), composed by Solomon Alkabetz in Salonica, Turkey, in the 1500s to welcome the beautiful Sabbath Queen. The hymn also charges humankind to administer the creation in a godly manner. Other table hymns, called Zemirot, used for Jewish family times of worship, focus on the desire of every creature to praise the Creator. The Sabbath itself encourages God’s people to discover the secrets of the creation and especially to refrain from even the smallest work which would deny that God is the creator and master of the world. By observing a day of holiness and refraining from activity, we imitate the Creator and enter into his Sabbath rest.
When we Christians rest as if all our work were done, we celebrate God’s creative and redemptive accomplishments on our behalf. Knowing that God is the perfect creator, we spend the day delighting in the beauties of his creation and thereby growing in our love for the master designer and craftsman.
Observing the Sabbath gives us the opportunity to be as careful as we can to ﬁll our lives with beauty and to share beauty with the world around us. When we observe a day specially set apart for beauty, all the rest of life is made more beautiful. That truth is illustrated by Monet’s painting entitled “Spring through the Blossoms.” The canvas is entirely filled with white-flowered trees except for one bright-red roof in the centre of the composition. Our eyes are immediately drawn to that roof, and its brilliance makes us more aware of the loveliness of the trees. In the same way, focusing on beauty on one day causes us to notice it on the other six days of the week. The Sabbath becomes a garden park in the midst of the technicisation of life; it brings us tranquillity and intimacy, sensitivity and creativity, butterflies and goldfinches and roses.