In the Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. On such a night, in ancient Nazareth, it is likely that Jesus, as a Jew, would have been in the synagogue, chanting solemn prayers with his congregation. Yom Kippur is also designated as the Sabbath of Sabbaths. The word Sabbath is loaded with meaning and it appears frequently in Scripture. Jesus referred to it when he said: “The Sabbath was made for man.” What did he mean?
The Guide: This, like almost all scriptural quotations, can be answered on many levels. I could not possibly go into all the different levels of meaning, but I shall try to combine them, so as to give you the essence of this quotation, as it applies to all levels.
The outermost level is obvious. The observance of the Sabbath very simply means that human beings should put some time and energy aside for their communication with God, for their inner development, for their spiritual nourishment, and also for physical rest. On this one day, a person should desist from ordinary pursuits. If you wish to focus your attention on the inner life, you cannot possibly do it effectively if distracted by other things.
If this law had not been given, many individuals would have neglected the needs of their spirits and of their bodies. This still holds true in very many cases. However, today humanity as a whole has sufficiently grown to determine when such times of spiritual nourishment and physical rest should exist.
This may or may not be the generally assigned seventh day of the week. It does not have to be on a prescribed day. With some, another day of the week may be more appropriate. With others, it is perhaps right to give some time every day to the inner life, while using the general day of rest for physical relaxation and refueling. You all have to develop contact with your inner voices and needs.
On a deeper level, this commandment means a balance of one’s activities. In previous eras there was so much childish dependency that life had to be structured in order to create a somewhat harmonious balance. As humanity is slowly maturing, self-responsibility has to grow along, even on such questions as when to take a rest, to what extent to work, and to what extent to concentrate on inner development and communion with God. In other words, your life should be harmonious also in the attempt to distribute your activities evenly, not to become one-sided. This is healthy for body and soul.
Today, this law cannot have the same meaning. “I must keep the Sabbath” would be a compulsion. It would be an unfree act and nothing would be accomplished. You should all be able to manage your lives in the most reasonable way from this point of view. You are now capable of using your judgment and common sense to find the proper balance between work, spiritual unfoldment, rest and pleasure.
You should all be able to arrange this balance individually and not stick to rules and regulations – no rigidity in any direction, but free choice used wisely. One can overwork and yet keep the Sabbath. One may not keep the Sabbath in the inner sense and fall short on one’s obligations. God is not to be thought of only on one particular day. Nothing must be a “must,” least of all God.
Religions have made a rigid rule out of this wise provision and admonition. With rigidity, the inner meaning gets lost. People follow through blindly and simply take the Sabbath – or Sunday – as the one day in the week in which to relax and rest. This is fine and it should be so.
But what is real rest? What is the only source of strength that could ever come to man? It is God. And God will give you strength if you try to know yourself so as to overcome your weaknesses, your misconceptions and illusions, your limitations and blindness. God in you can manifest only by way of a path of self-searching, of utter honesty with yourself, by working on your development.
This is not to be taken literally to mean that only one particular day should be designated for the pursuit of self-development and spiritual fulfillment. The meaning is: a certain amount of time should be devoted to the inner life, to reflection and contemplation, to self-observation. Thus and thus only, will you be capable of tuning into the divine forces that are otherwise out of your reach.
The Sabbath of Sabbaths means that there is this special day that this particular religion designated on which an inventory should be made. Again, it is not to be taken literally to mean that it has to be on only one special day a year. All of you who really work on this Path know that there are certain phases when you gain an overall view of where you stand now, as compared to where you stood before, and when, to some extent, you also see what remains to be accomplished, what problems within have not yet been solved.
You are still locked and blocked, and although you may see certain facets, you still lack sufficient insight to change these emotions. So you know this is what remains to be done. You need certain phases, certain times on this Path in which you gain an overall view, or try to gain it as best as you can.
Of course, these original meanings have been lost to a great extent. But that is the real meaning of the Sabbath of Sabbaths. It is, in a way, a new beginning, in the Jewish religion, appropriately following the New Year.
Scripture says that the seventh day is the day of rest. You also know the esoteric, mystic meaning of the number seven. Seven is the holy number. It indicates that things come to a close, to a whole. I will not say to an end, for there is no such thing; there is always a new beginning, a commencement. It is like the closing of a circle or cycle. When you close a circle, it is a state of peace, of rest.
Each number signifies a certain aspect of a cosmic, as well as a personal, psychological principle. The significance of the figure seven is the closing of a cycle. Then you go on, starting on the next cycle. You all know, this Path is like a spiral. You seem to go around in circles, but you eventually find out that it is not so. The similar cycle happens to be on a deeper, or higher level. Seven indicates the phase that is most restful in which, to a smaller extent, you gain an overall view. The puzzle begins to fit. You see certain pieces have fallen into place.
For a moment, in this present phase of your development, you have a certain clarity, and with that a certain peace. This is restful, until you come to the next stage in the ascending cycle, when you may become upset and restless again, when things seem to fall out of place again, sometimes so much so that you wonder if the past peace was an illusion. The confusion will provide you with a deeper insight and peace at the next resting point when this cycle closes again, provided your work on the path is sufficient in depth and goodwill.
The seven-day weeks pass in your world, one week after the other. They are merely the symbol for the small cycles in the larger ones. Actually, the timing and length of each cycle is an eminently individual process. They not only vary from one individual to another, but also vary with the same person.
One cycle may be long, another short. There is no regularity in them. The time measurement on your Earth plane is entirely symbolic, whereas in real spiritual understanding there can be no rigidity. You cannot artificially force the stages; they grow out of your work, your individual needs, your personal problems and characteristics. And also, they emerge out of your efforts on the Path.