The Genesis:3 Project
God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. (Genesis 2:3)
When I retired from my pulpit of 27 years, my family prepared a surprise for me. They solicited from members of the congregation remembrances of a sermon or teaching of mine that had made an impression on them. They bound them in a book and presented me with a few copies. One is a little tear-stained…
Having the opportunity to look back and reflect on my accomplishments felt like a real luxury. I had moved pretty rapidly from one work situation to another with very little formal transition. My life’s work (to that point) had been in the synagogue. When I made the decision to change directions, it would have been appropriate to take time to reflect. But there was no such time, and neglecting that opportunity took its toll.
How remarkable that all my years observing Shabbat did not translate to the “big picture” of my life. When the “big work” of creation ended, God took the time to do two things: bless the work and make it holy.
There were all of two people in the world at the time, and they were both unemployed. They could eat anything growing, they didn’t need clothes and, like my city, there was no FIOS service to install. That seventh day of rest for God was irrelevant for the earthlings. They had seven days of rest every week (well, until the unauthorized fruit).
God blessed the day and God made the day holy. That is, God imbued the day with meaning and set it aside as distinct. Later Jewish tradition would make those acts all about us; we make and receive special blessings on Shabbat and we sanctify the day with wine and meals and song and sometimes a little fruitful-and-multiplying. But in the beginning (here in chapter 2), the seventh day is not for the children of that original couple. It is for God.
After all, what did God do, according to the Torah, just before that seventh day? God looked at everything that had been created in that flurry of pronouncements and, hey, it was very good! So God took the moment/the day to acknowledge that the work completed was more than just a task. It had significance. It was transformative. It was for a blessing. And though another Day One would come around after the seventh day, that moment/day of transition was separate and distinct from the days before and the days to come. It was holy.
Shabbat, it seems, was gifted to people but created for God. Far be it for me to suggest that God actually needed the day of rest (unlike me), but God desired to acknowledge that the work was not incidental or negligible. Becoming aware is a benediction. Satisfaction sanctifies.
If you are ritually oriented in a faith, you do a bunch of blessing and you are familiar with things made holy. I suspect that, like me, you think you know what blessing and sanctifying are all about. If you find your spiritual life an internal process, you likely spend little time on blessing and sanctifying – too old-school and without a real reference point.
Let me encourage you to take a lesson from God (even if you are a non-believer; suspend your disbelief for a minute). What each of us accomplishes has worth. Take the time when a task or a project or a career comes to fruition to look at everything you did in your flurry of activity and notice just how good it is. Become aware of what you have done, and in doing so, give it the meaning it deserves and you deserve. Allow the satisfaction you take in completion – whether you have “succeeded” or simply safely reached the end of the endeavor – to stand distinct and separate, that is, holy from the efforts yet ahead. Becoming aware is benediction. Satisfaction sanctifies.
I don’t know how I would have blessed my time as a congregational rabbi and made it holy if I had not been blessed and made holy by my loving family and the friends they invited to contribute. Despite my weekly Shabbat, I wouldn’t have made my “seventh day.”
The semester’s end is ahead. That long-term project’s conclusion is on the horizon. You are about to leave your job, or retire, or get promoted. A child is due in your life or soon to go off independently.
The campaign season ends with the election.
Bless the moment. Make it holy.