Saturday, July 16, 2005

My Modest Shabbat

And on the seventh day God ended his work ... and he rested ... from all his work ...

Genesis 2:2, KJV

I remember when I was young and it was verboten in our house to turn on the TV on Sunday. I remember our religion involving a lot of nots. We did not gamble, smoke, drink, dance, go to movies, or go to amusement parks. The nots included certain Sunday prohibitions, including TV and sporting activities.

There was one Sunday afternoon when I went to a local park just to throw a football around with the friend. My father saw me participating in this fiendish behaviour on his way to church late that afternoon and crossed the field in his suit and tie in order to reprimand me. I remember telling my friend that I had to go. I wasn't particularly upset, but I didn't really buy into the belief structure either.

When I was a little older, it became time to begin rejecting some of these nots, and while I was never particularly rebellious, when I finally did happen to venture into an amusement park, I found that I rather enjoyed myself, didn't feel that I was stepping into evil or into the devil's clutches, and I was quite content to return periodically. Of course, I was suitably dressed down for partaking in these "worldly activities" ... but I knew that they weren't really worldly, so it didn't bother me a whole lot. In other ways, I maintained the faith that I had received.

Sometimes, perhaps, we throw the baby out with the bathwater, however. I am beginning to think that the intrinsic idea of taking a day or rest and reflection is rather a good one.

Today, I felt in need of rest. We have been on two bike rides in the heat in the last two days and certainly extended ourselves on yesterday's foray. We so exerted ourselves that upon our return, my shirt was so weighted with perspiration that it seemed to weigh the best part of twenty pounds when I unstuck it from my skin and peeled it slowly over my head. Then, for much of the remainder of the day, we resumed our shifting, sorting, and packing; we have been doing rather a lot of that lately. It short, we were a tired couple today.

So, it was time for a change. We sipped coffee by the bay this morning, went to the library, read the paper, read blogs, and generally did little that resembled work or any sort vigorous activity that would normally be labelled as productive. It felt good, however. It seemed to be what our bodies and spirits craved.

It's not Sunday; it's the Jewish Sabbath or Shabbat. I did not observe the day strictly, of course. I simply rested from the kinds of activities that had left me drained. And it felt good.

Maybe this is an idea to which we should return: not in a legalistic way but with the intention of restoring our bodies, minds, and spirits. I wonder how Sunday was allowed to become the official sports day? And why must all stores open? There are so many enticements that we forget to fill up our souls in whatever way that might be meaningful to us. We go on and on like this, but it seems to me that we really should get off the merry-go-round periodically, and once per week seems like a worthily benchmark to me.

Unless it is part of your spiritual practice, I don't think Sunday has to be your chosen day of rest. It could be Saturday or any other day that works into your schedule and lifestyle. I think it would do many of us good, however, to celebrate our own Shabbat, or day of rest.

"Guarding Shabbat mean adhering to the myriad restrictions imposed by Jewish law that ensure that you will not work. This represents the passive aspect of Shabbat — refraining from work. "Remembering Shabbat, by contrast, means taking positive actions to increase the joy and peacefulness of your life.

Jewish Ritual, Olitsky and Judson



Dee said...

I think we all need a day of resting and reflecting. Ours was Sunday when I was young. Much like yours. So many things we could not do and as a grew older, I found that many of those things I did not want to do and it had little to do with religion. While I could not dance on Sunday, I would walk in the woods and find other ways to entertain myself. In that way, It helped me. Or course many of the nots, I do because I would be awfully lonely on sunday if I did not join my husband and friends on certain things they do. But I do not think Sunday has to be the day we do these things.

Melodee said...

So true. Some day, I'm going to find a day of rest a week. Maybe in the nursing home when I'm 92.

Sue said...

Where we live, most stores are closed on Sundays. I think this is a good thing, it allows most families to have time together and ensures the rest of us aren't rushing around constantly. In our family we've made some traditions for Sundays - church, of course, and a cooked lunch, and maybe a board game or a DVD in the afternoon. And chocolate - we only eat chocolate on Sundays. I'd rather make it a positive experience than a negative one, a true day of relaxation.

Anvilcloud said...

Chocolate on Sunday and only on Sunday. I like that.

Judy said...

It's always seemed ironic to me that the institution that proclaims that I should rest on the Sabbath is the same institution that makes it impossible for me to do so.

Oh, well.

I'm going to have to try that chocolate thing. BRILLIANT idea!

Heather Plett said...

Wise words, AC. We all need a rest now and then.

I think there are a lot of traditions that have become the basis for legalism, but if we looked back at the root of the tradition, it was there for very good reasons. Unfortunately, too often we lose sight of the reason but cling foolishly to the "rules".

Ginger said...

Wonderful post. We celebrate Sabbath with no work, no academic study, etc. one full day every week. It's a day to be with family, in church, and outdoors together.

The fourth commandment says to do this in recognition that we are created beings. The re-creation and peace that come with observing Sabbath each week are a huge reward, and make it possible to be more balanced and productive the rest of the week.

Just my two cents (or pence, as the case may be).

Lora said...

When I lived in Oklahoma, deep in the heart of the bible-belt, I was routinely suprised by all the different things that you simply could not do on Sunday. Everything is closed. I do try to keep one day to relax and be with my family. Currently that day is Sunday. Although it's not always as restful as I'd like it to be.