Judaism: Day 5 and 6 – Resting is Hard Work

My first Shabbat kicked off Friday evening. I went to a friend’s home for Shabbat dinner and was able to observe how his family practices the Jewish tradition. The next morning I spent two and a half hours (unintentionally) at a Shabbat service. I say unintentionally because I guess most people don’t show up for the whole service. They show up for the last hour, before the Torah reading. I didn’t know this so I showed up at the beginning and got the whole experience. It was a true test of religious endurance.

That afternoon I spent most of my time napping; I put away my phone and computer so there really wasn’t much else to do.

If I were super strict about observing Shabbat, I would stop using all electronics for the entire Shabbat, I wouldn’t drive anywhere, I wouldn’t cook, or do much of anything really.

What I ended up doing instead was shutting off my phone and computer from Saturday morning to Saturday evening.

That by itself wasn’t so difficult; I didn’t miss it.

What did stress me out a bit was thinking about all the things I needed to get done and how I’m “losing” a day. For example, I’m combining my Day 5 and Day 6 posts because I couldn’t write on Saturday.  I don’t like breaking my writing streak so I felt a bit antsy when I didn’t write anything yesterday.

This simple experiment of detaching myself from my computer, phone, and TV made me realize how much effort it takes to truly rest.

When I come home from work I turn on the TV and browse the interwebs. I make dinner, watch some more TV, maybe do some reading, and then go to bed.

It looks like relaxation, but it’s not.  There is always one more episode of House of Cards to watch, one more blog post to read, one more e-mail to send, etc.

Shabbat, by actively restricting the activities you can perform, forces you to consider how cluttered your mind is and how little time you allocate to truly resting, not just fake resting with a plate of nachos and a heavily used Netflix account

Many of the  restrictions seem outdated, but they offer clear guidelines on what is permissible and what isn’t permissible.

Modern life, by contrast, doesn’t offer concrete rules for “resting.” We know we shouldn’t respond to work e-mails on the weekend, but what about personal e-mails?  What if the weekend is the only time we can run errands?

Without concrete rules, we run the risk of filling our weekends with work, but thinking we rested.

Then we complain about always feeling stressed and overworked.

It is a strange idea to think we have to work at resting, but I think that may be the only way we can truly rest.