The most important of the Jewish holiday is the weekly celebration of the Sabbath, that time of rest and rejuvenation that reminds us that even God took a day of rest. We all have busy lives and there is a tendency to full them all to the brim, forgetting to leave time for ourselves, our families, and our friends. For Jews Sabbath is a 24 hour period from sunset Friday night until sunset, or later, Saturday night when they can rest, reflect and re-connect with God. No work of any type is allowed during this time, including driving, cooking and for some even switching on a light or pushing the button on an elevator.
We can celebrate our own style of Sabbath unencumbered by the rules that have grown up around the Jewish Sabbath. Perhaps Saturday isn’t the best time for you to take a Sabbath break, then chose another day. I find that my life is such that Fridays make a better day of rest for me. Perhaps sunset to sunset doesn’t work for you. Try a different 24-hour period, or something less. Maybe just a morning or an afternoon or maybe only during daylight hours or after dark. You don’t need to completely disconnect from your life but many non-Jews are taking time to disconnect from all their electronic gadgets–no TV, no cell phone, no MP3 player. (See http://www.care2.com/greenliving/you-unplugged.html and http://unpluggedsunday.blogspot.com/2011/11/thoughts-on-simplicity.html for more information about this movement.)
Think about what might work for you. Perhaps you may need to start small, only a couple of hours at first to see how it goes. Think seriously about what you will and won’t do during your Sabbath time. I chose Friday as my Sabbath because my Saturdays and Sundays are filled with responsibilities I can’t (and don’t want to) give up–including teaching this class. When I was doing this regularly, I turned off the computer and tried to do other types of activities. I would often plan outings with my friends as part of my Sabbath celebration.
Try it out. Then come back here and to class and let us know how it worked for you.
Additional Questions for Thought
In class we read “What Makes a Jewish Home Jewish?” Constructing an altar as part of our study of Hinduism gave you an opportunity to think about the sacred spaces in your home. What new insights did you have after reading Ochs’s article? Do you have some explicitly religious objects in your home (Ochs’s first category)?Do you have objects that you consciously exclude from your home because of your religious beliefs? Have you given non-religious objects religious meaning so that they function as religious objects (Ochs’s second category)? Do you have some objects that are not particularly religious but whose meaning and function have shifted to a religious one (Ochs’s third category)? After reading the article, were you moved to make your space better express your own religious orientation?
The audience for this article (A Day of Rest) is faculty not students but it has an interesting discussion about different types of Sabbath observance you might be interested in.