When I was the pastor at Open Door Chapel my next door neighbor was a man named George. He was born in Jerusalem. When we happened to meet on the Sabbath he would greet me with “Shabbat Shalom.” Now, those of you who know George might say, “But he is an Armenian, not a Jew, why would he say that?” I think the answer might be that, as a boy, whenever he left the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, he would hear people in the adjacent Jewish Quarter greet each other in this fashion.
On my 2015 trip to Israel I noticed, when I was out walking, that the Jewish people are very reserved. They would not usually smile or greet this old man (me) who was so obviously an American tourist. But on Friday and Saturday I could greet most any Jew with this salutation and get a smile and the same greeting in return.
But some of you may be wondering, where did this Jewish expression originate? It comes from Genesis 2:2: ”By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”
Here, the English phrase “seventh day,” is in Hebrew, Yom Shabbat, meaning “Day Seven.” The word “Sabbath” is derived from Shabbat. And notice “Day Seven” was the first thing mentioned in the Bible as being holy, or “set apart.”
Also, you probably know that when you read the word “peace” in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is “Shalom.” So “Shabbat Shalom” is an appropriate greeting on the Sabbath.
Finally, I ask you, why would God make Sabbath-keeping one of the Ten Commandments? Why would He order us to have a day of rest and peace? Well, as our Creator, He knew our bodies and souls needed a day each week to recover from the six days He expects us to be working — to refresh our spirits and to re-connect with Him in a special way. I think He probably built this 7-day cycle right into our DNA as part of the rhythm of life that He knows is best for us. This is why we do well to adjust our lifestyle around this unique day as a time for communion and fellowship with Him and our fellow believers.