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Being, Being, Being

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

Why Shabbat is so central to Jewish life.

It often comes as a surprise to people to find out that Shabbat is one of the Ten Commandments. People understand that to murder, theft, adultery and idol worship are all anathemas to Judaism. But to keep Shabbat? Why is it so important as to merit a place in the big ten?

I have heard it said that, throughout the ages, more than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews. I think it is very true. On Shabbat, one is prohibited from even thinking of business, let alone talking or doing. One cannot use a car. One cannot use a phone. One cannot use a computer. One cannot cook. One cannot go shopping. It is a day completely free from distractions. A day in which one steps completely out of the rat race of modern society. Instead of doing, doing, doing, a person starts being, being, being.

So what can a person do to fill a day if there are no Blackberries, cars, computers, shops, or business?

Well, for a start, you can spend a lot of time with your family. And you can do it without any distraction. Since you can't just watch TV or go out shopping with them, you are forced to spend the time doing what we often avoid at all costs - talking! Relating to them. Or how about spending some time enjoying this gorgeous world we are all fortunate enough to be a part of. Go for a walk, smell the fresh air, look at the trees and the flowers. Feel at one with your environment.

But the greatest thing of all that Shabbat forces one to do is to stop and think, to reflect, to self-examine. What am I living for? What am I doing it all for? Am I focused, or am I running on an auto-pilot that long ago diverted from the course I set it on? Am I running somewhere, or am I just distracted by the experience of running?

Shabbat is a time to think. It is a time to remind ourselves of what we are living for. Without a day that forces you to stop and think, you will never do it. You will get caught up and very busy with life - so busy that you completely forget what life is all about. People often think of Shabbat as restrictive. Obviously, they have never experienced it properly. I know of nothing more liberating. Yes, restrict your actions - but. In order that you can liberate your mind, your heart and your soul.

And in a curious way, this applies on a national level as well. Shabbat is one of the Ten Commandments. Because without it, the Jewish people would have long ago forgotten who we really are.

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