“If you buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” Exodus 21:2


I’m too busy.” “It will have to wait.” “Do you have wifi?” ‘Will you get off your phone!” “I’m exhausted.” 

Any, or all, of these phrases may be familiar to us. We live in a world that demands our attention at all times. We are contactable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even in the car, a moment when we could just be with our own thoughts or listen to the radio, we can be interrupted by calls via Bluetooth.  

We multi-task across devices. We walk and scroll. We skype, tweet, whatsapp, text, call, facetime, zoom, snapchat, upload to Instagram, Facebook. Connectivity is beautiful, helpful and necessary but it is also exhausting.
In Judaism we are gifted with a counter-culture to this destructive narrative, which drives us to work tirelessly. Our texts hold ancient wisdom and teachings, which divinely command us to rest. 

Shabbat is perhaps one of the most radical and necessary tools today, which allows us to prioritise our wellbeing, to save family life and to ensure we connect with those we love and that which brings us joy. By totally switching off, we model to our children, and those around us, the value of resting. 

In this week’s parashah, Mishpatim, we see the concept of rest in another guise — not personal rest but rest within social activism. We are taught that slaves are to be released in the seventh year (unless they choose otherwise). We balk at the concept and reality of slavery in the Torah, regardless that it was linked to paying off debts and quite different to modern slavery today.  

Yet, seeing this condition of resting and freeing of slaves, we understand that in everything we do, and in the darkest times, we are obligated to follow the mitzvot which demand we live a good, ethical life. 

A life that includes rest as a vital component. One which values our time and the dignity and value of those we live and work with. A life that demands we are responsible for ourselves and for others and the need for rest. 

With this most radical tool of rest at our disposal we have a chance of ensuring a personal and a collective healing — a true tikkun olam.

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