Stop the world, I wanna get off!
Do you ever feel like the world is moving at a frenetic pace and you can't seem to catch up? That even though we have more "stuff" than ever before, and give our children far more than we ever had, our most significant relationships are still lacking? That despite dizzying medical, scientific and technological advances, we are still not living life to the fullest? That deep down there is an ache for something deeper, more pure, more "real”?
You are not alone.
In an article entitled "Your Blackberry or Your Wife," the Wall Street Journal described the devastating assault of various forms of technology on virtually every important aspect of our lives – from our relationships with our children, to safety while driving, to intimacy with our spouse.
No, this does not mean we should all go Amish. Besides the obvious convenience and necessity of technology, as the Billy Joel song says, "We Didn't Start the Fire." So while there is no doubt that technology has aggravated many serious social ills, the struggle to find meaningful space in our lives is a problem as old as the world itself.
But so is the solution.
"Remember the Sabbath Day to sanctify it. Six days you shall toil and accomplish all your work... for in six days God created the heaven and the earth... and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it."
A question: What exactly does it mean that God "rested”? Was He worn out from all that building and creating and needed a weekend to "chill out"? Of course not! (They don't call Him the Almighty for nothing!) Rather, God created the world in six days, but on the seventh day came the most important development of all – the creation of rest, purpose and sacred time.
In the words of “Lecha Dodi,” sung by Jews worldwide as they welcome Shabbat, the day of rest is "last in deed, first in thought." All of creation is meaningful only if there is time to pause, think and appreciate the truly important aspects of life.
So who could be surprised at the recent New York Times article describing the various ideas proposed by young, hip professionals to take a break from our "always on" culture – including a "National Day of Unplugging" and a list of principles to be followed one day a week in order to unwind.
Sounds like a cool, cutting edge concept. Except that Jews who practice the timeless wisdom of the Torah have known for thousands of years that, in the words of an expert quoted in the WSJ, "There has to be some time in the week when you are all together and you shut off.”
Having hosted hundreds of guests for Shabbos over the years, I have seen firsthand how Shabbos works its magic.
Some memorable moments:
- Shabbos guests who discovered they were neighbors but, because of the hectic lives they lead, had never met until they joined us for a Shabbos meal.
- The fierce blizzard that brought an unexpected van load of people to our home mere minutes before Shabbos. By the time the chicken soup was served, the warmth of Shabbos had them forget their harrowing ordeal and the bitter frost outside. Our other guests refused to believe that we were not lifelong friends, but had met only an hour earlier.
Then there are the times I can't explain.
We were hosting a young, highly successful couple for the first time. We were looking to introduce them to the spiritual grandeur of Shabbos, but it seemed like it was not meant to be. My wife is a great cook. The food was burnt. My children are gracious hosts. They were bickering half the night. The baby was crying, the wine spilled all over the spotless white tablecloth, and my son put chewing gum in my daughter's hair. And these were the better parts of the evening. (Notice I have not mentioned my role in the debacle. Writer's privilege.) As they thanked us and left, my wife and I turned to each other and said, “Oh well, we'll never see them again."
They have not stopped coming back. They have incorporated Shabbos into their own lives. They found the experience of sacred family time every week to be so powerful, that they barely noticed all that went wrong.
Yes, with great food and spirit, warm family ambiance, and meaningful song and conversation – Shabbos has the power to unite, to relax, and to bring harmony into any home.
It gives a whole new meaning to TGIF. Like anything worthwhile, Shabbos takes some effort. But those who truly seek will reach unfathomable heights. And all these gifts will be yours.