I don’t remember who asked the question. It was so long ago, maybe 10 years? I do remember the question.
I do remember that it was a golden day in early autumn. The leaves were shimmering and shaking and the sun softly warmed our backs as we sat on the rocks overlooking Boulder.
Some congregants and I are were on a Shabbat Hike, as is the minhag in our adventurous congregation. My sermon that day was about Shabbat. I’ll admit, my sermons are often about Shabbat, the concept of a day off, which I believe to be among the greatest gifts the Jews gave the world.
I tend to go on and on about “creating palaces in time” and taking time to be with family, community and friends and so on. Honestly, I love Shabbat and think everyone else will too if they just make time to try it.
So there we were on the rocks, under the sun, listening to the leaves. As I said, I don’t remember who asked the question although I do remember the question.
“I like my work. Really, there is little I would rather do. My work is my favorite thing to do. So, why shouldn’t I work on Shabbat?”
I don’t remembered what I answered. I probably said something about the importance of creating havdil, separation, something about making one day different than they rest. Or maybe I went with, “We all need down time to re-inspire and re-invigorate ourselves.”
I don’t know what I said but I do know that none of my answers satisfied me. They probably didn’t satisfy the asker either. I’ve been thinking about her question for years.
Last Shabbat, when I felt exhausted by being a mom and a rabbi and a wife and a friend and an author, and all the other things I am, I escaped into my office to do some work on my computer. FYI, I don’t work on Shabbat. I don’t use my computer or phone. But I was so worn out at that moment that being on my computer seemed relaxing, like just the Shabbat escape I needed. I felt at that moment like the asker, ““I like my work. Really, there is little I would rather do. My work is my favorite thing to do. So, why shouldn’t I work on Shabbat?”
Right before I turned on my computer, I remembered that question, from years ago and I think I finally understand the answer.
Here is the thing. Shabbat is a day designed to remind us of what is important in our lives. The idea of Shabbat is not just to check in with ourselves and make sure our life is properly expressing our priorities but to make sure we have the correct priorities!
If work is the most important thing in my life, then I am missing out on some other amazing parts of life. If work is what I love more than anything else, I am missing out on the opportunity of experiencing loving other people, places, animals, etc.
Years ago my friends Jennifer O’Conner told me that life is like a bicycle. “Draw a two-wheeled bicycle,” She said. “The front is your work, the back is your personal life. Both tires have to be blown up all the way for the bike to cruise.”
I did not turn on my computer. I walked back into the mayhem of Shabbat in my living room.
Shabbat may not always be peaceful or pretty, quiet or calm. Sometimes Shabbat is not even relaxing. But it is a day that reminds us that to live a full and meaningful lives, we need to create loves in our lives other than work.
As I turn off my computer for Shabbat, I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.