by Atticus Agustin
We live in noisy world. The typical workday consists of bustling traffic, emails, text messages, calls, bumping into people, long reports, extra shots of espresso, and later going to bed waiting to repeat the cycle the next day. Thankfully we have weekends to ease us from the stress of the workweek. Our brains need it. If not, we’d be overworking until we feel like we’re about to explode. It’s like stretching a rubber band until it breaks.
For observant Jews there exists a day in the week where all those stressors are swept away. That day is called Shabbat, and it is basically a day to chill. You probably already practice something similar to the Shabbat during the weekend – maybe less religious. The thing is, it doesn’t need to be religious. The key idea is finding intrinsic value in your life away from work.
Most are familiar with the Christian day of rest, or Sabbath, on Sunday, but the Jewish day of rest (Shabbat) falls on Friday at dusk to Saturday at dusk. It is almost identical to the Islamic day of prayer that Muslims call jumu'ah. The three faiths celebrate the same idea of rest and tranquility.
The Jewish tradition teaches more than just rest on that day. One of the things it teaches is to be uninvolved in worldly events. For one day, they set aside politics, protests, and all those socio-geo-economic stressors that make us want to hide. This one day a week is utilized to focus on the stuff that really matters: your home, yourself, and your mental health.
Abstaining from money and work is part of the Shabbat. Money is an extension of the workweek that the Shabbat tries to avoid. Observers work for six days to reap profit from the earth, but on the seventh day they take a break from the sweat and toil of the workweek.
There are levels of observance of course, and not everyone practices Shabbat the same way. Hasidics are extreme to the point that they will not pluck chicken feathers, turn on lights, cook, operate machinery, or lift. All of those things are considered work.
Unplugging is another cornerstone of Shabbat. My cell phone and laptop is off for a whole 24 hours. Those devices are an extension of productivity. And while there are some uses for enjoyment outside of productivity, I prefer to shut them down and set a day aside for my senses to live a life away from the screen. Not leaving one day aside from those devices would make me feel like I’m working 24/7.
Leaving electronic devices for at least some time is healthy. According to a University of Maryland research, people who unplugged found an increased quality of life by spending more time with family and friends, cooking, getting more exercise – essentially spending free time elsewhere than on the screen.
Another 16-year study from Columbia University shows that families who prepare and have meals together can strengthen family relationships and reduce problems with teen drug abuse.
What did I do last Shabbat? I bought a rose petal bath salt and soaked in the bath for hours. It is a very good feeling hearing nothing but silence in the tub from the traffic, calls, and deadlines. After I got out, I treated myself to some shea butter body lotion and a glass of wine. Then, I headed for bed. I enjoyed an eight-plus hours of deep sleep – this time without the alarm.
The following morning I grabbed a book on Spanish, enjoyed some good company, and painted. Talk about recharging my batteries, ready to tackle Monday.