A little over 3,300 years ago Moses is reported to have received one of the greatest secrets to success of all time, the Fourth Commandment of his religion: “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”
This commandment has been practiced indirectly by other religions and cultures that also designated a routine day of rest in their calendars for personal and communal rejuvenation (check out Buddhist Upostatha, Cherokee Empty Moon Days, and Wiccan Esbats for starters).
The Sabbath Day is a commandment among religious Jews, and many go so far as to avoid the use of electricity, cars, money exchange, and even writing or tearing a paper towel from sundown Friday to twilight Saturday: all of those would obstruct the peace of the Sabbath through performance of work. I met Senator Joseph Lieberman in 2012 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, as I coordinated logistics towards Syrian refugee camps. As it was the Jewish month of Passover I was able to find some kosher-for-Passover food from the local commissary to share with him, and we exchanged thoughts on the value of the Jewish calendar–specifically, the value of the Sabbath. Senator Lieberman said, “People ask me, ‘How can you be a U.S. Senator and still take the Sabbath off?’ and I always say, ‘I don’t know how I could be a U.S. Senator and not observe the Sabbath.’ One of the hardest things for me to do on a Friday evening is to turn off the Blackberry–turn off the television…but try it. You’ll like it.'”
He pointed out that, as much as the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews as one of the most resilient civilizations of all time. After all, we are designed to rest.
While most of our Western culture works five days per week and stays home Saturday and Sunday, many observant Jews make it a point to perform work for six days, resting on the seventh. Most of us in the United States work five days per week, “resting” on the sixth and seventh: Saturday and Sunday. But there’s a better way: work for six days straight–work your heart out…work your guts out…but no matter what, rest thoroughly on the seventh. When I say rest thoroughly, I mean we need to at least adopt a little bit of ancient wisdom. Here are some guidelines I try to follow, and it’s worked pretty well for me so far:
– Arrange all travel around the Sabbath. No matter what. The goal is to experience a day free from anxiety, which simply cannot be achieved at an airport or on a highway. If you’re out of town, arrange for a peaceful place to “live” for that 24-hour period and plan to live in peace for that entire 24 hours. I cannot stress how important this is: when you forfeit your Sabbath due to work or travel or other people’s wishes, you limit yourself and your well-being for at least six more days–you’ve allowed yourself to be robbed of your freedom and autonomy–that’s no way to live!
– Establish traditions and “favorites” for your Sabbath. Jewish traditionalists reserve the best clothing, table cloths, candles, and wine for the Sabbath. It’s a day to treat yourself like royalty, and to find refuge in the pleasantries of the here-and-now.
– Avoid driving, avoid restaurants, avoid shopping, and avoid having to watch television (commercials): these are some of the most unnecessary-but-stressful activities one can perform. Driving, waiting in line, paying, making trivial decisions…that’s all weekday stuff. This is your day away from worldliness.
– Remember: nothing needs to be improved upon on your Sabbath. Nothing needs to be planned for. This is your day for yourself, for your family and friends, and for your escape from the other six days of the week.
No matter how much chaos we endure in our day-to-day lives, whether at work or at home, there will be immense comfort in the awareness that a day will come, not too far off, where the chaos will cease. Peace will enter our lives. Quiet reflection will become available. We will get to rest. That’s the essence of a Sabbath Day.
The majority of Christian denominations generally observe the Sabbath on Sunday from sunup to sundown. For Jews it’s from Friday evening to Saturday night. Regardless of the particular days of the week, everyone would benefit from a regularly scheduled 24-hour period in which nothing will interfere with rest, recuperation, reflection, and rejuvenation.
I practice a Sabbath from sundown every Saturday to sundown every Sunday. Every week. No matter what. I started this practice while deployed to the Horn of Africa, where officers were expected to be on-duty from Monday at 7 AM to Saturday at 7 PM, and Sunday was our day to rest. In most of Western work culture we find that, if there is to be a day of rest, that day will be Sunday. I took advantage of it and tried out the Sabbath with the constraints of my culture. I loved it. You will too.
You’ll be amazed at how rejuvenated you feel after 24 hours of rest. 24 hours of feeling like a king or a queen. 24 hours of detaching yourself from the shackles of your job, whether you love your job or not…If practiced thoroughly, I guarantee that you will find a Sabbath to fully recharge you–and even make you excited and impatient–to get back into the world of competition and success. But you’ve got to give yourself that guaranteed, certain, routine break from the world.