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3 Lessons from Experiencing the Jewish Sabbath

April 6, 2018
Jewish Sabbath

One of the most eloquent traditions of the Jewish Sabbath is blessing children.

Jewish Sabbath

Children blessing the Jewish Sabbath

On Friday evening before dinner, parents will bring their children close, put their hands on their heads, and whisper a blessing in their ears.

The customary blessing for boys includes the hope that they “are like Ephraim and Menasche.” Ephraim and Menasche were the two sons of Joseph and his Egyptian wife.

Their grandfather Jacob gave them a special blessing before he died. Aside from this appearance, they do not play major roles in the Biblical narrative. They just appear in the Jewish Sabbath blessings.

It seems strange, therefore, that the rabbis chose to use Ephraim and Menasche as the role models for young boys. Surely they could have chosen more important figures: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or even Moses. Why these two?

Perhaps because Ephraim and Menasche were the first brothers in the Bible that got along. That’s lesson #1. 

Brothers Who Get Along

Every prior set of siblings fought intensely. We recall Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. After so many generations of conflict, we finally encounter a pair of brothers who do not harm one another.

In fact, they get along so well that the older brother does not protest when their dying grandfather signaled his preference for the younger brother when he used his better hand to bless him. (Genesis 48)

By selecting Ephraim and Menasche, the Jewish sages sought to teach a lesson. Peace begins in the home. That’s lesson #2. It is the most beautiful vision of peace. And the one that is hardest to fulfill.

Modeling ourselves on Ephraim and Menasche is the way we get there. It is the first and most challenging step toward shalom. You can take the next step toward Shalom by experiencing the devotions and prayers in Shalom for the Heart.

Try the Sabbath

You could also try to learn from the Jewish Sabbath and live your own. .

To observe the Sabbath, you do not necessarily need to follow all the Jewish laws or Christian practices.
Just change what you do. Appreciate. Breathe. Pray. Do not feel the need to be productive. Try not to talk about work. Try to do activities that replenish your mind and soul.
A great musician was once asked by an admirer: “How do you handle the notes as well as you do?”  The musician answered: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists, but the pauses between the notes–ah! That is where the art resides.” Rest is our pause between the notes of life. That’s lesson #3.
Why Rest
Rest not only feels good. It does good. As a recent article pointed out, “A study from the Boston Consulting Group showed that when they forced their employees to take more breaks, productivity went up.
similar study out of Cornell concluded that worker efficiency significantly increased when a computer program reminded the workers to stop and take breaks. Anyone who has ever felt mentally recharged after getting some fresh air knows intuitively that these studies make sense.”
The Sabbath is one way to experience that fresh air inside and out. That’s a lesson for life.

About Rabbi Evan

I show the way Jewish wisdom make our lives richer and happier. In particular, I help Jews appreciate their heritage and Christians uncover the Jewish roots of their faith. Get my FREE Jewish holidays cheat sheet by clicking here.

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Finding ways of peace.