There’s a very cute animated cartoon about Shabbat. It portrays a very busy day in Manhattan, a lot of noise and a lot of traffic, and you see a policeman in the middle of all this traffic, but he doesn’t have a face—he has a whistle for a head. And then you see a lot of people walking down the street but nobody has a face; one fellow has a computer monitor for a head, another has a pen for a head, and another has a wrench for a head. It is a faceless world. Everyone has become his or her career. They are no longer people with careers, they are careers. There’s a feeling of tension and every so often you see a clock that is ticking towards some set time. One fellow, who has a briefcase for a head, is shown walking quickly home. When he finally reaches his home, he enters, sits down in a soft chair, and an alarm clock rings. At that moment his briefcase head melts into a warm and smiling face and he joyfully says “Shabbat Shalom.”
This cute cartoon delivers the point—we can lose our humanness. We can become our career. If we become our career then our career leads us and we are just victims of a mechanistic world; we’re just another cog in a big machine. Shabbat is the antidote to mechanism. Shabbat is the antidote to the notion that our lives are simply part of a big machine constantly in motion.
When we stop for Shabbat, what we’re saying is that we are not natural forces, we are not compulsive automatons acting without control over our lives. We are created in the image of God empowered with free choice and intention.
If we can’t, for just one day, let go of our jobs, then we don’t have a job, but our job has us.
To be free or not to be free? That is the question.