Friday, June 22, 2012

A Sabbath Moment

Last night, a group of brothers and sisters in Christ celebrated my graduation and for being conferred a doctorate. They invited me to share a little of my thesis. Instead of sharing details from my academic dissertation, I decided to share a story instead to give people a glimpse of what Sabbath leads us to.

The story begins with a Sabbath celebration dinner with the famous Rabbi, Baal Shem Tov. The disciples were all ready to begin the Sabbath dinner with candlelighting, eating, and singing. As one disciple was lighting the Sabbath candle, the Rabbi suddenly laughed out loud: "Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Puzzled, the disciple paused a moment, and thought if he had done something silly. He then continued the lighting and the rest continued with their eating. He gave a bowl of soup to the Rabbi. Upon his first spoonful, the Rabbi exclaimed, "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

Again, the disciples were puzzled as to what was happening with their esteemed Rabbi. Like the first instance, they then quietly ate the food before them. Soon it was time to sing some Sabbath songs. In the middle of the singing, the Rabbi let himself out uncontrollably with guffaws and laughter. Now, the disciples were really mystified with the Rabbi's three laughs. Finally, one of them asked:

"Rabbi. Can you tell us why are you laughing?"

After recollecting himself, the Rabbi said, "If you want to know, follow me."

He went out leading all the disciples with him. They then travelled to a village a distance away. Upon reaching their destination, the Rabbi asked the leaders of the village to gather in the common square. They dutifully obeyed, for the Rabbi is a revered leader. When all had gathered, the Rabbi suddenly said, "There is one family that is missing."

One of the village leaders then remembered the Bookbinder and wife. He then went to call them. When everyone had finally come together, the Rabbi said to the Bookbinder, "Can you please tell my disciples and the people in your village how you celebrate the Sabbath tonight?"

Slowly, the Bookbinder shared.

"When I was younger, I made enough money to offer something on each Sabbath. As I grow older over the years, I earn less and less, and my Sabbath offering becomes less and less. Tonight, my wife and I only managed to have bread crumbs and a bowl of water for our Sabbath meal.

I experienced a Sabbath moment then. When I see my wife lighting an imaginary candle with an imaginary match, I suddenly see the light. I see my lovely wife, the one who has stood by me all these years through thick and thin. When my wife pours me a bowl of water, I imagine it to be soup, and just the thought of my wife serving me faithfully with whatever we have fills my heart with joy. When we start to sing the Sabbath song, I see the beauty of love in my wife, and I dance, I hug, and I sing with my wife. Surely, the angels of heaven are laughing and rejoicing each time we celebrate the Sabbath with what we have. That is why every Sabbath, no matter how much or how little we have, a Sabbath moment is worth celebrating."

Sabbath moments are like these. Like the BookBinder who acknowledges the presence of his wife instead of lamenting the absence of good food and candles, we are urged to be thankful for what we have. We are encouraged to rejoice with what God has given now. We can celebrate what we have instead of complaining about what we do not have.

A Sabbath moment is about appreciating and enjoying our abundance rather than worrying about our lack. Far too often, we become too worried and pre-occupied with what we do not have, that we neglect what we have, especially the persons around us. Sabbath moments are not about looking at the things that we do not have. It is about giving thanks. It is about being grateful. It is about being gracious to one another, because God has shown us much grace.


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