The justice of Sabbath

Sabbath was conceived to mark two things: (1) God’s rest on the seventh day and (2) Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Israel was told to have a rest on the seventh day to remind them that they used to be slaves in Egypt, where they needed to work every day without rest. Sabbath reminds them that YHWH has saved them from Egypt. Thus it is supposed to be a liberating institution. It reminds them of freedom, of YHWH’s mighty hands. Sabbath is not merely about having a rest, but ultimately it is about justice. And that’s the main reason why Jesus clashed so many times with the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath. Not that the Pharisees didn’t have their own reasons for their regulations of the Sabbath. Sabbath, by the time of Jesus, has become a key aspect of Jewish identity that separates them from the pagans. Sabbath becomes the way to express yourself as a (faithful) Jew, not a pagan. However, in the end, it makes the Sabbath, an icon of freedom and liberation, to ironically become a limiting, suffocating institution. Sabbath, a symbol of justice, has ironically become yet another source of injustice.

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