Secular or Sacred Time – Whose Clock Rules Your Life?

Time is one of the most precious commodities that HaShem has given to mankind. The Almighty has given every person on this planet 144 hours a week (The first through the sixth day of the week) for their personal use and 24 hours a week (Shabbat or the seventh day of the week) to set apart and devote to Him. [1] These two periods of time can be characterized as secular time and sacred time.

Even though on a weekly basis Adonoi has given us adequate time to accomplish everything that we need to achieve – virtually everyone I know feels “Time Constrained” and “Time Starved.”

Harvey Schachter in his article “Feeling Time-Starved? Well You’re Not!” makes the following observation: “We all have 168 hours a week to handle work, family and personal affairs. Perhaps because that can’t be stretched and we’re ambitious, it always seems like a severe constraint. So we moan about never having enough time for everything, being super-busy and overwhelmed. And we accept that everyone else is equally stressed.”
Time-stretched people usually steal the 24 hours that God has given to them to pursue their own interests not realizing that for the body to be refreshed and capable to fulfill the demands of the week the inward person must first be refreshed.

It is amazing to me that when it comes to attending a special event such as a concert, movie, or a party the majority of people that live on “The Third Planet from the Sun” possess plenty of time and energy but when it comes to dedicating their hearts to the “Sacred Time” of Shabbat they are usually “Time Constrained” and exhausted.
As the children of our Heavenly Abba we are to consider the Shabbat a delight – a day to pursue “The Holy One of Yisrael ” and not to consider Shabbat to be a day of “recovery” or a day of entertainment and leisure.

As it is written:

If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;if you call Shabbat a delight, Adonai’s holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them.If you do, you will find delight in Adonai —I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya‘akov,for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.”
 – Isaiah 58:13 – 14 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

אִם-תָּשִׁיב מִשַּׁבָּת רַגְלֶךָ עֲשׂוֹת חֲפָצֶךָ בְּיוֹם קָדְשִׁי וְקָרָאתָ לַשַּׁבָּת עֹנֶג לִקְדוֹשׁ יְהוָה מְכֻבָּד וְכִבַּדְתּוֹ מֵעֲשׂוֹת דְּרָכֶיךָ מִמְּצוֹא חֶפְצְךָ וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר. אָז תִּתְעַנַּג עַל-יְהוָה וְהִרְכַּבְתִּיךָ עַל-במותי (בָּמֳתֵי) אָרֶץ וְהַאֲכַלְתִּיךָ נַחֲלַת יַעֲקֹב אָבִיךָ כִּי פִּי יְהוָה דִּבֵּר.

One question that we should be asking ourselves is not how does God’s “World” and time schedule fit into my “World” and time schedule but rather how does my “World” and time schedule fit into God’s “World” and time schedule?

Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book “The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man” writes that “the meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space [Creating, Shopping, Working, Running to and fro]; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
 Conceptually – the Scriptures teach that the whole week (the allotted 144 hours) revolves around and culminates on Shabbat.

The Sages Shammai and Hillel illustrate this concept in the following manner:

“It was taught: They related concerning Shammai that all his life he ate in honor of the Sabbath. Thus if he found a well-favored animal, he said, Let this be for the Sabbath. If afterwards he found one better favored he put aside the second for the Sabbath and ate the first. But Hillel the Elder had a different trait, for all his works were for the sake of heaven, for it is said: ‘Blessed is the Lord, day by day’. It was likewise taught: Beth Shammai say: From the first day of the week prepare for the Sabbath; but Beth Hillel says: ‘Blessed is the Lord, day by day’. (Psalms 68:20)” Babylonian Talmud Beitzah 16a

“In other words, Shabbat is a part of a way of living the entire week. Shammai believes the Sabbath is something we prepare for all week long. For Hillel, on the other hand, it is the culmination of a week lived by the highest spiritual values in which we cherish each moment of life as we experience it.” [2]

Yeshua expresses the sentiments of Shammai and Hillel in the following manner:

“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  – Matthew 11:28- 30

פְּנוּ אֵלַי כָּל־הָעֲמֵלִים וְהַטְּעוּנִים וַאֲנִי אָנִיחַ לָכֶם׃
קַבְּלוּ עֲלֵיכֶם אֶת־עֻלִי וְלִמְדוּ מִמֶּנִּי כִּי־עָנָו וּשְׁפַל רוּחַ אָנׂכִי וּמִצְאוּ מַרְגּוֹעַ לְנַפְשׁׂתֵיכֶם׃
כִּי עֻלִּי נָעִים וְקַל מַשָּׂאִי׃

From Yeshua’s point of view our daily Shabbat preparation is achieved by entering into a daily “Shabbat” encounter with HIM. If we fail to do so we are destined to stumble into Shabbat so exhausted and “Time Constrained” that Shabbat will become a burden and not a delight.

Therefore let us make a conscious effort to enter into Yeshua’s “rest” so that we will be empowered to enter into “Oneg Shabbat” or the joy of the Sabbath.


[2] Rabbis Michael Katz and Gershon Schwartz “The Observant Life”, pp.98-136

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Yosef Koelner was born in Chicago and raised in a Jewish home that his parents characterized as “Orthodox”. At birth he was given two first names, an English one, Harvey, and a Hebrew name, Yosef, which was given to him in remembrance of his mother’s deceased brother, Chaim Yosef. Rabbi Yosef’s education includes but is not limited to a BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Illinois State University and a MA in Jewish Studies from Gratz College as well as a Doctor of Practical Ministry from Wagner Leadership Institute. He also graduated from Ulpan Alef (Hebrew language studies) Katsrin, Israel. Additional studies include The University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and an Orthodox Yeshivah in Tzfat Yisrael. His ministry spans four decades and he is currently the Rabbi of Kehilat Bet Avinu. He can be contacted at