There is a bluish-gray two-story house with chipped white trim set back from the street that runs through Highland Park, New Jersey. It looks like it has been there forever. There is a residence upstairs, and Jack’s Hardware occupies the ground floor. The front store window of Jack’s Hardware doubles as storage space for small boxes of unopened inventory. From the outside, it looks like the little store is jam-packed with nails and screws and hammers. The steps to the front door are laden with galvanized buckets and plumber’s carts and flags for the 4th of July. If Opie had needed some nails and wood to build a go-cart, Pa and Aunt Bea would have sent him to a place like Jack’s.
For the past 3½ years, whenever my husband and I drive through Highland Park, we pass by Jack’s in befuddled wonder. “How is that place still in business?” we ask each other. “Who goes there? I don’t get how they are making it.”
So one weekend, after pizza at one of our favorite places in Highland Park, we decided to walk “back in time” through this town where clocks seem to run more slowly and people seem to breathe more deeply than they do on our street. We wondered if the little overflowing hardware store would still be open. I had always wanted to slow down long enough to walk in and browse around.
But it was closed. For a second we were disappointed; then I saw the sign in the door:
“They honor the Sabbath,” I grabbed Dale’s arm. “Maybe that is why they are still in business.”
These people honor God by keeping one of His ancient commands. The rhythm of their lives is structured around keeping the Sabbath (Shabbat.) The store closes at one-thirty on Fridays. That is early enough to go home and take a shower and be settled in before Shabbat begins at sundown.
I have been thinking a lot lately about being intentional in my practice of keeping the Sabbath. Lauren Winner in her book, Mud House Sabbath, describes how a typical Jewish family’s week is ordered around keeping Sabbath. Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday and is kept until sundown on Saturday. By Wednesday meals are being planned and shopping is being done for the upcoming Friday. Conscious preparation is routine so that by Friday afternoon work is put away and rest is ushered in. The rest and refreshment is felt so deeply that Saturday sunset comes all too soon. The workweek begins again with such sweet renewal that one is always thinking about and preparing for the evening when Shabbat will be welcomed in again.
One of the names of God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Mekoddishkem, or Jehovah M’Kaddesh. The God who sanctifies you. The God who sets you apart.
The God who makes you holy.
When God gave Moses instructions about the Sabbath he said:
“Say to the Israelites, ‘you must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am (Jehovah M’Kaddesh) the LORD, who makes you holy.” (Ex. 31:13)
God was saying:
Every week when you set this day apart, when you are intentional about giving Me this day, it will be a reminder to you that I am the One who has set you apart. I am the One who makes you holy. I am Jehovah M’Kaddesh.
The practice of Sabbath keeping has to be intentional or it creeps up on me and I miss it. Saturday night before crashing into bed exhausted is not a good time to think about what we will eat after church on Sunday or if everyone has something clean to wear. And so, we are learning to rest from our work one day each week. Our kids know that the laundry room door is closed from sundown on Saturday until sundown on Sunday. We set aside our work and welcome the rest as a gift.
Keeping the Sabbath is God’s way of reminding me that He is intentional about me. Before he laid the foundations of the earth he knew that there would be a cross and he planned the empty tomb so that he could sanctify me.
Before we left New Jersey I went to Jack’s to buy some screws. The young man who greeted me and helped me find what I needed was kind and professional and knew exactly what I needed to fix my chairs.
“Is Jack still around?” I asked.
“No. He passed away 4 or 5 years ago.”
It was a quick transaction. Two dollars and forty-six cents. I think I will keep the receipt. Maybe put it in a frame next to a picture of Jack’s Hardware.
Closed on Fridays at 1:30.