For most of us, rest has a very specific meaning: The cessation of all work… relaxing… not doing much of anything.
I remember when I first started going to Shabbat services in Orthodox Shuls, I was surprised at how much “work” was being done. Friday night marathons… candles… services… a huge meal… Four hour services Saturday morning… a lunch break with Cholent… and then back to it.
This was not “rest!”
Then again, G-d does not rest either. Hashem is everything and everywhere… Hashem is pure energy… and this never stops.
So what does it mean to “rest?”
If you are like me, your brain is a chatterbox. Whether it is focused on work… getting work… or just dealing with the non-stop thoughts and emotions coming into your head at every minute of every day… it can be daunting… noisy… busy!
I have often discussed mediation and mindfulness… the importance of being able to quiet your mind, and focus either on nothing and just “being” with whatever is in front of you at any particular moment, and IN THAT MOMENT. Being COMPLETELY PRESENT is the goal.
And THIS is the goal of Shabbat. It is JEWISH MINDFULNESS. It is to be COMPLETELY PRESENT… To setting aside the issues at work… the problems that zap your energy… the endless, self-inflicted, internal debates and dialogues… the troubles of the week…
Actually, this might open a debate, too… Who is more important to connect with, you or Hashem? I would argue that the “Oxygen Mask” analogy applies to everything. In order for you to help anyone else, including your children, you need to put on YOUR oxygen mask FIRST. And in order to TRULY CONNECT with Hashem, you have to know who you are… and connect with yourself first.
Of course, Hashem created us… Hashem defines us… Hashem is within and around all of us, all of the time. We believe that G-d is everything and everywhere, so FAITH and BELIEF is knowing that Hashem is ALWAYS IN US… ALWAYS A PART OF US.
But first, we must quiet ourselves and become aware, which is why there is a preparation before prayer, where we recognize everything… who we are and who Hashem is…
We MUST ALWAYS know before whom we stand.
I love those moments when I stroll my neighborhood or walk my dog on what I would call a “perfect day.” Cloudless sky, perfect temperature, quiet and calm, other than the sounds of nature… birds singing… perhaps the gentle notes of a whistling breeze. It is at that moment that I seem most alive, most open to everything. I look at each leaf on each tree. I map the sky with my eyes. I see EVERYTHING… I HEAR EVERYTHING. My senses are completely open and taking in EVERYTHING. And yet, it is EFFORTLESS.
According to My Jewish Learning.com: “Shabbat is meant to be a day of peace. It offers us a chance for peace with nature, with society, and with ourselves. The prohibitions on work are designed to make us stop–if only for one day of the week–our relentless efforts to tame, to conquer, to subdue the earth and everything on it.”
They also discuss Shabbat liturgy and it’s definition of rest as “a rest of love freely given, a rest of truth and sincerity, a rest in peace and tranquility, in quietude and safety.” Yet, at the same time, it is a rest yoked in the same breath to “holiness.”
When I take those walks, I feel HOLY. When I truly connect with myself and Hashem, I feel HOLY. When I feel gratitude and pure appreciation for all that I have and all that I will have, I feel HOLY.
THIS is SHABBAT… or what it should be. Shabbat, in its purist form, should be a relaxing and resting of the mind… the ability to effortlessly focus on our prayers… on our connections to G-d and Family… and to ourselves. But this is also the reason we should and must take Shabbat into our week, into our daily lives and existence. This is the end game… the goal… This is how we become fulfilled… how we make our lives meaningful.
If we have to focus on one thing in this world, let it be to recognize, connect to and BE Holy… every day… every minute… every moment. Amen.