Keeping the Sabbath

I still am moving slowly, seemingly stuck between dimensions and planes of existence, and even time...

I had every intention of making several entries about my trip, but have not managed to do so...

In my last entry I spoke of how my journey to Jerusalem transpired from one Sabbath to another, and this seems fitting, because the notion of keeping the Sabbath has come to dominate many of my conversations of late.

Recently, in my prayer group, we discussed a need and longing for keeping the Sabbath. For the rector of the Church and her assistant, keeping the Sabbath means they must block out their Mondays, and shelter this time from a lot of the distractions that life offers us. We reminisced over a time in this country when on the Sabbath - that is to say Sunday for most of us - stores were closed, and most of us went to Church, read the paper, and enjoyed family time, punctuated by a lovely meal.

As we enter into the celebrations of both Thanksgiving and the beginning of Hanukkah this week, I am appalled at the number of stores that plan to open on Thanksgiving, depriving their workers of this day off. This is the only day when all who live in this country - regardless of their politics or religious traditions - come together to express gratitude for all the many blessings received. Yet this year, this rich and lovely tradition is in peril. 

While I traveled through the Holy Land, my traveling companions and I discussed the impact  of the Sabbath on the society at large. Not only did stores shut down, but so did most of the public transportation. In fact, when our flight was cancelled, we had to contact the airline in the United States, because the airline office in Tel Aviv was closed on the Sabbath.

One of my companions noted that he could work anywhere and often did on Sunday, but the observation of the Sabbath and its merits had convinced him to try unplugging one day a week.

Recently, a dear friend had decided to do the same thing. As we celebrated my birthday "belatedly," since I had spent it in Israel, she gave me a beautiful covering for my computer for the Sabbath, that I may be reminded to unplug from all electronics for one day.

So, during the late evening on Saturday, I systematically  turned off my computer, my iPad, and my iPhone, and entered deeply into the Sabbath and whatever blessings and enjoyment it would bring.

It was interesting to observe how often I wanted to "Google" a piece of information, or how often I mindlessly allow myself to spend time on social media. Instead, I slowed down, I was more present, more relaxed, and engaged my husband in a lot of conversation. I read the paper, and went through a stack of reading material that had piled up. I had the time to meditate without distractions. In some ways, the day seemed longer. Email and Facebook were not missed, and would simply have to wait. There just weren't any distracting intrusions into my day.

On the last day of my trip, it was interesting to observe the hustle and bustle of the people rushing to the market buying food and flowers and other items as they hurried home to prepare for the Sabbath. By 2 PM, most of the stores were closing. By 5 PM, transportation had shut down, and within an hour, the city of Jerusalem seemed virtually a ghost town. And while I am not suggesting we all follow suit, there is something to be said for having a day to unplug and change one's rhythm. 

Later, when I spoke to the woman manning the desk at our hotel, a secular Jew, she remarked, that though she was not observant, she longed for the Sabbath and the quiet that descended on the city.

We may not all have the time to dedicate a full day to unplugging and unwinding, but we can  all settle down with a cup of coffee or tea, and do much to slow down our pace. We live in a society and culture that never stops, that never seems to slow down - and where noise has been allowed to predominate. I shudder at the fact that a generation of children does not understand the value and beauty of unplugging and enjoying stillness and silence.

I look forward to this new practice in my life that reminds me of another time and place which transpired during my childhood. May you find some degree of Sabbath in your life as well!

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