Disconnecting and Menuha
We live in an age of connectivity. We are connected all of the time. It is not a bad thing necessarily in times of emergency or if there is important business. Unfortunately, many never disconnect or get away. As the members of the activist arm of the Christian Church, many of my officer brothers and sisters complain (some actually boast) they can’t remember when they had a day off. Much of it is traced to the fact that we are connected to the web, via text, and smart phone to everyone and everything these days, but as I will discuss later I believe it might go deeper. There is simply no down time.
This flies in the face of the scriptural commandment given to the Children of Israel as they trudged toward the Promised Land through the wilderness. In setting the very foundation for true worship, God Himself declared that the normal pattern of living a holy life was to disconnect. “8 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11 NIV
He even set the pattern by modeling the behavior Himself at the beginning of time. “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:1-3 NIV. Jesus often pulled away from the crowds to pray.
The Sabbath then is a time of stopping the routine, the work, the daily grind and replacing it with something holy.
The Hebrew word for Sabbath is Shabbat. It means simply “to cease or desist.” The Sabbath then is a time of stopping the routine, the work, the daily grind and replacing it with something holy. It is not that connectivity can’t be holy. In fact, one of the Young Adult small groups that meets on a regular basis in our area of ministry does so on line through Facebook. There is deep theological discussion and biblical content that happens in those hours.
Disconnecting goes deeper I believe than just the internet and technology. It means that we must disconnect from the urgent to tend to the important. Ceasing is the only way to do this. Note too that the Genesis account shares the fact that God not only stopped on the seventh day but He finished something and then ceased again. The rabbinical tradition uses the word menuha to talk about what disconnecting from the everyday means. Menuha has to do with connecting with peace and tranquility. It means that we most earnestly stare into the face of God without distraction or cross-purposes.
Norman Wirzba in his book Living in the Sabbath: Discovering Rhythms of Rest and Delight says, “The creation of menhua is not a divine afterthought. Nor should be it viewed in a passive way, as a mere withdrawal from exertion. God’s rest on the Sabbath day did not amount to a pulling back but rather a deep sympathy, harmony and celebration with all that was there. In so delighting in the splendor of creation, God invites creatures to bask in the glory of the divine life. In a most important way, therefore, the creation of menuha gave to all of creation its purpose and meaning. Without menuha creation, though beautiful, would be without an all-encompassing eternal objective, which is to participate in the life of God forever.”1
Written by Major Larry Ashcraft, Divisional Commander, Southwest Ohio & Northeast Kentucky