Shabbat has always been a point of contention for hiloni (secular/cultural) Jews in Israel. The buses don’t run, most stores are closed, and restaurants that are open are few and far in between. If you’re not observant, Shabbat in Israel can feel like a major inconvenience.
I have always understood Shabbat to be a day of rest. I grew up in an observant home in which we would not use electricity, we wore our nicest clothes, and we spent the entire morning in synagogue. As I have grown up, observance has become less and less important to me and my Judaism. However, the meaning of Shabbat has continued to hold true. According to the Ibn Ezra,
“פירוש הברכה: תוספות טובה, וביום הזה תתחדש בגופות דמות כח בתולדות ובנשמה” –
“A blessing [on Shabbat from God] means an increase in well-being. On the Sabbath the body is blessed with a renewal of its reproductive strength and the soul.” (Genesis 2:3).
To me, Shabbat is about refreshing your mind and body. I find so much value in having a day
to rejuvenate – a day to focus on taking care of myself and what I want to do. For me, Shabbat is a day to take a break from work and school and focus on spending time with friends and family. I utilize the day to de-stress and enjoy the simpler things in life.
For those of us living outside of Israel, Shabbat isn’t so apparent. I find myself forgetting throughout the day that it is Shabbat. But as soon as I remember, I feel my stress fade away. I remember all of the mornings spent with my family, reading books in my parents’ room. I think about my spontaneous visits to friends’ houses and playing card games for hours on end. I reminisce on my late Friday nights on various Jewish programs, talking about anything and everything with my peers. The reminder of Shabbat is an instant relief, like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I can enjoy the time I’m having, whether I’m at the beach with my friends or a meal with my parents or singing my heart out at the concert of my favorite artist. I reconnect to the peace and calm that Shabbat gives me.
When there is so much going on in the world around us and in our personal lives, it can be easy to forget the importance and beauty of Shabbat. It’s worth taking the time to think about what Shabbat means – or can mean – to you, outside of its religious aspects. You can build your own Shabbat traditions and practices – ones that help you feel connected to the day-of-rest mindset. I encourage you to consider how you can incorporate a little bit of Shabbat into your week.