Posted by: episystechpubs | June 18, 2013

Editor’s Corner: Sabbath and sabbatical

I was reading a tidbit in the book SuperFreakonomics about laws with good intentions that end up hurting those they are designed to help. The example was a law recorded in the Bible which …required creditors to forgive all debts every sabbatical, or seventh year. I stopped here because the word sabbatical caught my attention. I always thought that a sabbatical was a break that teachers or other professionals took to write a book, travel, or heal from a mental breakdown. Then I wondered if it was related to the word Sabbath or if they were both related to the word seven.

The answer is that yes, a sabbatical is a break and it is related to the word Sabbath. They are connected to seven but not by their etymologies. Here are the details for those with inquiring minds.

sabbatical (noun): sabbatical year; leave

sabbatical year (noun): a year of rest for the land observed every seventh year in ancient Judea by allowing the fields and vineyards to lie without tilling, sowing, pruning, or reaping from autumn to autumn in accordance with a Levitical commandment. [KC The law mentioned in SuperFreakonomics was that on the seventh year debts were forgiven. The problem? Creditors stopped lending money during years five and six, driving the borrowers out of business and into starvation.]

sabbatical leave (noun): a leave with full or half pay granted (every seventh year) to one holding an administrative or professional position (as college professor) for rest, travel, or research

Sabbath (noun): the day of rest and solemn assembly observed as sacred to God by Jews and some Christian churches on the seventh day of the week from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday

Etymology: Middle English sabath, sabat, from Old French sabat, sabbat & Old English sabat, from Latin sabbatum, from Greek sabbaton, from Hebrew shabbth, from shbath to rest

Black Sabbath

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

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