The Shabath meant and means many things. It was a protest against slavery. One day in seven, every individual shared the same freedom, breathed the same air of liberty. It was a reminder that there are limits to our exploitation of natural resources.
Like the sabbatical and jubilee years, it was a time when the earth rested as a reminder that we are not only creators but also creations, charged with conserving the natural world for future generations. But it has something, too, to do with the nature of happiness. The story is told of the eighteenth century mystic Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev who looked out of his window one day and saw people rushing in the town square below. ‘Why are you running?’ he asked one passer-by. ‘To make a living,’ he replied. ‘What makes you so sure,’ said the rabbi, ‘that your living is ahead of you, and you have to run to catch it up? Perhaps it’s behind you, and you need to stand still to let it catch up with you!’ The Shabath is the time when we stand still and let our blessings catch up with us.