How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life

When I tell new friends and colleagues that I take a day off each week. the most common response I receive is, “That’s great, I would love to do that too. But, it’s impossible, I just have too much to do. What I really need is an eight-day work week, then I could get everything done. But a six-day week? I don’t know how you do it.

For many years, I felt that way as well, that there was no way out, no way off the treadmill. I had to run faster to stay in place. I was on a treadmill without an off switch. (How do you turn this darn thing off?) Even the pandemic has not entirely turned off the treadmill.

But there was a way out. Without quitting my job, moving to the country and selling all my belongings, there was a way off the treadmill.

I learned, slowly, how to stop once a week to catch my breath, put down the to do list, to turn towards the ineffable, and remember who we really are.

After years of Shabbat practice, I know that if we didn’t have our oasis in time, I wouldn’t be able to manage at all. I would be scrambling most of the time. It’s our time oasis that gives us life.

It does seems impossible to take a day off each week. I felt that way too when someone first asked me to join a Friday night dinner group years ago.. My answer was “No, I’m too busy.” But I learned, like you can, to start small. When I first learned about Shabbat I went to one Shabbat dinner, once a month, and then went back to work. Then I stopped working after dinner. Then I tried that once a week. Anyone can learn how to take an hour off, really off, each week. And slowly add time from there.

It’s not easy, but if I can do it, anyone can do it. And by that I mean, I am a driven, somewhat ambitious, person who works too hard. Maybe even a bit workaholic. I like to get things done, I like to juggle a lot of different projects, I tend to take on too much and I often feel behind. I have a family, I run my own business. Yet, I take a day off each week. That day helps us reconnect, it restores our souls. It saves my life and the life of my family.

There are still many days when I feel that my life is not quite my own, I am running to keep up, I always have one more thing to do, I am never quite done with my to do list. But I also know that I will stop – at least for a day this week – and that prospect carries me through. Shabbat is our oasis in time. With a day off each week I get more done in six days, as much as I used to wish I could get done in the mythical eight.