Walking through the wind-tunneled, icy rain drop covered streets of Manhattan…
… Arriving home and pulling off soaked boots and coats as the heat of inside envelops.
Waking up with the flu but still having to work or care for family or go to school…
… Finishing the efforts of the day and finally going horizontal under a pile of covers.
Being in the midst of the most stressful time in one’s life…
… Walking into a beach front vacation house and realizing there is a view of the ocean from every window and that there is nowhere to be.
Ahhhhhhhh. Such relief feels so good. But the relief only feels that way because the prior moments felt so lousy.
Last year, I was that stressed out person arriving at a beach house. Just like coming in from biting cold or finally sleeping when ill or getting a drink of water when dehydrated or finding a bathroom when one is really, really needed (😝), arriving at that vacation house was an ahhhhhh moment. It was intoxicatingly magical.
Today, I write this entry having just returned, one year later, from that same beach house. But this time, when we arrived, I didn’t feel quite the same degree of relief I did before. It was still an enormously positive and welcomed change from life, but honestly, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to get the same “high” as last time, and I didn’t. The home was just the same and the coastline hadn’t changed. Was it because it wasn’t all new? I’m sure that was some of why, but there was another reason… a better reason. I realized it was because, this year, I wasn’t as miserable before I got there. The beach house hadn’t changed. I was the thing that changed. I just needed it less.
Since our last trip to that beach house, I had (doctor’s orders!) worked on reducing my stress level by lessening my work load, rethinking my personal schedule, carving out more time for family, friends, exercise, meditation and yoga, altering my diet, and working on myself and how I react to life. In other words, I had been working (and yes, it’s work!) to bring a little bit of “beach house” into my every day.
Shabbat is supposed to feel like I do in that beach house and be a taste of the “world to come.” We are invited, every week, from sunset to sunset, to abandon our every day worries, stop all labors (both physical and emotional), feast on the finest foods we can afford, and rest completely as if swinging on a hammock in the summer breeze. Shabbat is a holiday vacation every single week. But so few of us, including me, take full advantage of what Shabbat has to offer.
How many of us are just plain worn out? Feel like there is no end to our worries? Feel like making a Shabbat for ourselves is next to impossible? Most of us! Yet those of us who feel that way are the ones who need it the most. We keep going and going, and by doing so, our tensions multiply. We give ourselves no opportunity for that ahhhhhh moment. But perhaps by giving ourselves a weekly vacation, we can have a better shot at unravelling the stuff of life that keep us from not needing the break so badly. It’s a catch-22. We need Shabbat desperately because we don’t have the time to take it, and by not taking it, we don’t see clearly enough to know how much we need it. And if we do jump on the Shabbat train, we just might calm our nerves enough to not need it as much the next week.
When Shabbat ends, we sniff spices. Some say we do so to wake us from our Shabbat stupor, but I prefer the idea that we take those sweet scents into ourselves so that we bring the sweetness of Shabbat with us into the rest of the week. If we can make every day a bit more peaceful then Shabbat won’t feel like such relief, and we won’t need it as much. Maybe that is the ultimate goal? Perhaps that is how we are to “keep and observe” Shabbat – not by running ourselves ragged until we unplug because of a mandate but to live every day internally as if it is a Shabbat. Maybe that is the promise of the world to come. Maybe the possibility of a perfect world lives within us. When we can walk through our days with shalom (completeness and contentment), even when NOT on vacation, even when it is NOT technically Shabbat, we will have peace. Shabbat will be every day.
Let’s challenge ourselves to take a mini Shabbat vacation every single week, even if it is only for an hour, and challenge ourselves to take a mini Shabbat vacation every day, even if it is only for one breath. It is our opportunity to create our own “worlds to come” right here, right now. That’s my New Year’s Resolution (along with eating more dark chocolate!).
Happy New Year!
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