This weeks Torah parsha is Va’etchanan (Deut. 3:23-7:11) and includes a repetition of the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-21), including the commandment to keep the Sabbath (Deut. 5:12-15)
Philo of Alexandria writes of this commandment:
The fourth commandment has reference to the sacred seventh day, that it may be passed in a sacred and holy manner. Now some states keep the holy festival only once in the month, counting from the new moon, as a day sacred to God; but the nation of the Jews keep every seventh day regularly, after each interval of six days; (97) and there is an account of events recorded in the history of the creation of the world, comprising a sufficient relation of the cause of this ordinance; for the sacred historian says, that the world was created in six days, and that on the seventh day God desisted from his works, and began to contemplate what he had so beautifully created; (98) therefore, he commanded the beings also who were destined to live in this state, to imitate God in this particular also, as well as in all others, applying themselves to their works for six days, but desisting from them and philosophising on the seventh day, and devoting their leisure to the contemplation of the things of nature, and considering whether in the preceding six days they have done anything which has not been holy, bringing their conduct before the judgment-seat of the soul, and subjecting it to a scrutiny, and making themselves give an account of all the things which they have said or done; the laws sitting by as assessors and joint inquirers, in order to the correcting of such errors as have been committed through carelessness, and to the guarding against any similar offences being hereafter repeated. (99) But God, on one occasion, employed the six days for the completion of the world, though he had no need of any length of time for such a purpose; but each man, as partaking of a mortal nature, and as being in need of ten thousand things for the unavoidable necessities of life, ought not to hesitate, even to the end of his life, to provide himself with all requisites, always allowing himself an interval of rest on the sacred seventh day. (100) Is it not a most beautiful recommendation, and one most admirably adapted to the perfecting of, and leading man to, every virtue, and above all to piety? The commandment, in effect says: Always imitate God; let that one period of seven days in which God created the world, be to you a complete example of the way in which you are to obey the law, and an all-sufficient model for your actions. Moreover, the seventh day is also an example from which you may learn the propriety of studying philosophy; as on that day, it is said, God beheld the works which he had made; so that you also may yourself contemplate the works of nature, and all the separate circumstances which contribute towards happiness. (101) Let us not pass by such a model of the most excellent ways of life, the practical and the contemplative; but let us always keep our eyes fixed upon it, and stamp a visible image and representation of it on our own minds, making our mortal nature resemble, as far as possible, his immortal one, in respect of saying and doing what is proper. And in what sense it is said that the world was made by God in six days, who never wants time at all to make anything, has been already explained in other passages where we have treated of allegories.
(The Decalogue 96-101)
And as Philo writes elsewhere:
(3) And his exordium, as I have already said, is most admirable; embracing the creation of the world, under the idea that the law corresponds to the world and the world to the law, and that a man who is obedient to the law, being, by so doing, a citizen of the world, arranges his actions with reference to the intention of nature, in harmony with which the whole universal world is regulated.
(Philo; On Creation 3)
And later he concludes:
(143) But since every city in which laws are properly established, has a regular constitution, it became necessary for this citizen of the world to adopt the same constitution as that which prevailed in the universal world. And this constitution is the right reason of nature, which in more appropriate language is denominated law, being a divine arrangement in accordance with which everything suitable and appropriate is assigned to every individual. But of this city and constitution there must have been some citizens before man, who might be justly called citizens of a mighty city, having received the greatest imaginable circumference to dwell in; and having been enrolled in the largest and most perfect commonwealth. (144) And who could these have been but rational divine natures, some of them incorporeal and perceptible only by intellect, and others not destitute of bodily substance, such in fact as the stars? And he who associated with and lived among them was naturally living in a state of unmixed happiness. And being akin and nearly related to the ruler of all, inasmuch as a great deal of the divine spirit had flowed into him, he was eager both to say and to do everything which might please his father and his king, following him step by step in the paths which the virtues prepare and make plain, as those in which those souls alone are permitted to proceed who consider the attaining a likeness to God who made them as the proper end of their existence.
(On Creation 143-144)
Or as he states elsewhere:
…for he [Moses] was not like any ordinary compiler of history, studying to leave behind him records of ancient transactions as memorials to future ages for the mere sake of affording pleasure without any advantage; but he traced back the most ancient events from the beginning of the world, commencing with the creation of the universe, in order to make known two most necessary principles. First, that the same being was the father and creator of the world, and likewise the lawgiver of truth; secondly, that the man who adhered to these laws, and clung closely to a connection with and obedience to nature, would live in a manner corresponding to the arrangement of the universe with a perfect harmony and union, between his words and his actions and between his actions and his words.
(On the Life of Moses 2, 48)
This weeks parsha reminds me of sabbath’s I used to spend with a close friend as a teen, hanging out at the Botanical Gardens and the Japanese gardens, abd just taking in nature. Those were wonderful sabbaths.
The Sabbath is a great time to contemplate nature and ask ourselves how we can better live in harmony and union with the Logos.
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