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The Stop Button

May 9, 2009 | by Ayelet

How I got out of the never-ending cycle of work, struggle and stress.

Two years ago, I started a transcribing job, where I listen to Torah tapes and type up the lessons. At first, I used a machine with a foot pedal which would allow me to stop, start and rewind the tapes at the touch of my toes. Then, as technology progressed, I was given a computer program to use. I no longer had the foot pedal to rely upon for my stops and rewinds. Now it seemed all I could do was just listen and type.

When I wanted to stop and go back, I had to close and re-open each program, and often the tape would start again at the beginning. This was very time-consuming, so I set the tape to play on the absolutely slowest setting, and as the teacher's voice droned on painfully slowly, I began to type furiously. And it's amazing how fast I needed to type to keep up with this slow voice. My job was becoming quite nerve-wracking, frustrating, and challenging. I would type as fast as I possibly could, which was never quite fast enough, and started feeling more and more stressed out.

One day the computer tech guy came and showed me the "stop" button. Right then my whole world changed. It was like drinking a refreshing sip of cold water on a hot summer day. What a relief!

Funny thing is, it had been there for me all along, but I just didn't know about it.

With the stop button, all the pressure and stress was suddenly alleviated. If only life had a stop button as well. When you pressed it, the whole world just stood still. Everything was done, accomplished, created, and all you had to do was just be. No obligations, no responsibilities. A complete state of rest and relaxation, where everyone was free to be with each other, with themselves, at peace. A break from the fast-paced everyday life. What if all the chaos in life could suddenly stop, and when you start it again, things are suddenly so much easier?

Wouldn't it be great to find such a thing?

Step Back and Enjoy

The stop button I've found is called Shabbat. When life is crazy busy, and it seems that even in my sleep I'm dreaming about work and responsibility, I always have Shabbat. Each week, no matter what, I have my 24-plus hours of "stop." No work, no thinking about work, no problems, no chaos. Just a blissful break, where the food is ready, the clothing is set out, and my batteries recharge.

My grandmother lost her husband at a young age and had to work two jobs to support her family. She says, "I could never afford a real vacation. But Shabbat is my vacation, and I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world. Each week, I get my peace and tranquility -- no matter what is happening in the world."

When I first stumbled upon the idea of actually taking on Shabbat in my life, the hardest thing for me was to give up the control. You mean I'm not in charge of my life? I can't make the decisions today? For a whole day, I have to let go and allow life to just happen?

But when I was finally able to let go, it was the best freedom I had ever felt in my life. The realization that I don't have to think I am in control that day -- because in truth I'm not really in control any other day, either. There is God above me, who loves me more than I can ever fathom, and He is in charge. And although every other day I can pretend to be in charge of my life, for just one day each week I acknowledge that there is a higher power in my life, guiding me, loving me, and taking care of me.

Each day of the week, my life is dedicated to work, creation, and making things happen in the world. I consider myself to be highly productive and efficient. (I hope my boss feels the same way!) But on Shabbat, I allow myself to step back and enjoy.

Without this day of rest, I know my life would be like it "used to be." I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of work, struggle and stress. With my cell phone attached to me at all times, I was in a constant state of alert. Now I have my refreshing vacation each and every week, allowing the power of Shabbat to infuse my entire week.

A co-worker of mine recently looked at me and sighed, "It never ends!" I smiled and said, "Actually, you just need to know how to press the stop button."


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