Rest for the Body and the Soul

Today we continue with our discussion of the Hebrew meaning of the biblical holy days. ‘Yom Kippur’ {יום כיפור} (‘Day of Atonement’) is the holiest day of the Jewish year and we can find its biblical description in the following verse:

“It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:32)

‘Sabbath of solemn rest’ or as it appears in the original Hebrew ‘Shabbat Shabbathon’ {שבת שבתון}  is a Hebrew phrase that can be found only six times in all of the Torah and only with regard to three events on the calendar: Shabbat, ‘Shmita’ (‘ The Sabbath year’) and ‘Yom Kippur’

If you will look closer at this Hebrew phrase (‘Shabbat Shabbathon’) you will find it is composed of a repetition of the word ‘Shabbat’. As a rule, when we see this grammatical phenomenon in Hebrew, we should understand it as ‘an intensified version’ or simply the superlative.

That is the case in the Hebrew term ‘Kodesh Ha-Kodashim’ {קודש הקודשים} which in the English translation kept its original Hebrew structure ‘ Holy of Holies.’ And the same goes for the Hebrew term ‘Sefer Ha-Sefarim’ {ספר הספרים} – which means in English ‘the Book of Books’ – that can be found in the Israeli Declaration of Independence and refers to the Bible of course.

If we follow this grammatical explanation, it means that in our case ‘Shabbat Shabbathon’ suggests a complete and total rest (the literal meaning of the word ‘Shabbat’ is ‘rest’) both for one’s body as well as one’s soul.