We are busy, too busy. There are too many chores to do, too many errands, too many work tasks, too many people to answer to, and too little time. Our children’s activities seem unending, keeping track of their homework and tests is exhausting, and we just don’t have time to rest. The constant running around though takes its toll. We are tired, irritable, and stressed out. We know that in this state we aren’t taking care of ourselves and we certainly can’t be as good a parent as we would like. We snap easily, yell more than we should, eat on the run, and are less patient with our children. We really need a break.
In the Torah, we are told to remember and observe Shabbat. Our Sabbath as Jews begins on Friday night and continues till sunset on Saturday. Traditionally, this is a time when people cease all kinds of work, engage in prayer, celebrate, and enjoy food and family. For many of us who are not traditional, though, taking off a full 24 hours may be unrealistic given the demands of work and activities. However, perhaps we can still have a sense of Shabbat even if only for a few hours.
What would it be like to actually put on the calendar scheduled time to rest and have fun with our kids? It could be a sit down dinner on Friday night where no one has to rush out the door. We could attend services at a nearby synagogue as a family. We could look at taking a few hours on Saturday for a bike ride, walk in the park, to see a movie, play some games, or make sandcastles at the beach. We are so lucky to live in Southern California where we can enjoy being outdoors year round. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of it? I am boldly suggesting that just as we schedule our kid’s school, soccer practice, and activities, maybe we can schedule some down time as well. Why can’t we enter into our iphone or android something like 1:00-4:00 pm family outing? It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is joyful and relaxing with our kids. And what could be more holy than resting and having joy on Shabbat?
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a famous 20th century Jewish theologian, in his book, The Sabbath, writes that “the meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.” We all know the pressure of fitting too many things into a single day and into the week. Heschel reminds us to leave the world of things, push aside all those errands and chores, and stop running from activity to activity. We become enslaved by all the things we must do that we forget to live. For Heschel, holiness and eternity are only experienced in time. By setting aside time for ourselves, our children, and for God, we can catch a glimpse of something greater than the moment. Time is where we can sense the meaning of life. Time is when we can step back and appreciate the love of our family. Time is when we can feel a sense of wholeness and appreciate the glory of our universe. Shabbat can give us a sense of the eternity of time.
So perhaps we should schedule a break on Shabbat for ourselves, for our kids, and for our sanity. We need time to feel joy. We need time to enjoy the love of our family. We need time to appreciate the gift of life. So schedule that picnic in the park, card game on the floor, walk in the mountain, or swim. Let’s take time to recharge ourselves. Let’s take that break. ✿
Rabbi Nancy Rita Myers is the rabbi of Temple Beth David in Westminster, CA.