Blessing of Sabbath versus Selfish Self-Sacrifice – Isaiah 58:13
Living a sacrificial life can sometimes be an extreme expression of self-centeredness. People don’t like to see themselves as “takers” – they enjoy thinking of themselves as altruistic “givers”. In pursuit of this self-centered desire; the desire to see oneself as “above” and as a sacrificial person, people may practice a life of self-sacrifice. These people are capable of tuning in to the physical needs of other people and acknowledging their reality. These people are even capable of empathizing with other people’s emotional needs and recognizing their validity – but all in the context of their own personal giving. It all has to fit in with the picture that is being generated: “I am the benevolent “giver” and these people are my beneficiaries”.
This is not the selflessness that brings us closer to God. After everything is said and done – this attitude is rooted in a world-view which puts man at the center.
Sabbath is a day when we acknowledge God’s sovereignty. The prophet encourages us to proclaim the Sabbath as a day of delight, a day in which we enjoy the pleasures that God provided.
The lesson of the pleasures that we enjoy on the Sabbath is that we are recipients of God’s blessing; always, every second and in every realm. Our existence, our material possessions, our bodily functions, our ability to speak, to think and to reason; are all constant gifts from God. The lesson of Sabbath is that we are recipients and we should not try to fight that position allotted to us by God; rather we should take joy in the gifts that God granted us and imbibe in the pleasure of being a recipient of God’s love.
The giving that God is looking for flows from a heart that is overflowing with joy in the blessings of God. The giving that God is looking for has the “giver” being completely conscious of his or her position as a recipient of abundant blessing to the degree that the “giver” sees themselves as a recipient just as much as the one who is on the receiving end of the giving and perhaps even more so.
In order to live with the sovereignty of God in our hearts and in our minds we need to learn to focus on the blessings that God is constantly pouring down upon us. These blessings need to be so real and so tangible in our minds that we are suffused with the realization that we are the recipients of such an abundance of blessing and we should learn to take joy in our position as recipients; “takers” from God. It will then be easy for us to share our wealth; because we are all truly wealthy with the blessings of God. With the focus on God’s blessing we can then “give” without falling into the trap of seeing ourselves as “givers”. We will not see our sharing as “self-sacrifice”; rather our giving will flow from a heart that is completely cognizant of God’s benevolence in our own lives.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal