Shabbat This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Wouldn't it be great if there was one day on which you didn't have to do homework, didn't have to earn money, didn't have to do errands, didn't have to cook, and didn't have to clean up your room? Wouldn't it be great if you could spend one whole day talking with family and friends, eating good food, singing great songs, and reading? Wouldn't you like to have a vacation like that? A vacation from the stresses of life sounds lovely, doesn't it?

I have such a day once a week. Every week. Without exception. Not only don't I have to do homework, or errands, or work of any kind, I'm not even allowed to. This day is called Shabbat. It is by far the best day of the week.

Oh, yes, you folk have your weekends, and you say that you use them to relax. But you really spend them running around, doing errands, watching TV, and doing other things that you don't have time to do during the week. You don't get a real vacation. While you're a kid, you might be able to shirk homework for a day, and spend the day reading and playing with your friends, but soon those days will be gone. As an adult, you'll spend your weekends picking up the dry cleaning, buying groceries, mowing the lawn, going to the movies, doing laundry, taking your kids to activities, going to the bank, and watching television. You might go to church on Sunday morning, but that will be the extent of your rest and relaxation, and the rest of the day is a regular day, more or less.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me explain. Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, lasts from sunset on Friday evening until nightfall on Saturday night. During those 25 hours, I do not touch money, turn lights on or off, watch television, use the computer, drive in a car, write anything down, cook anything, use the telephone, or use any other electrical appliance. I can't rip things (can't open mail), or sew things together (can't sew on a button). I don't mow the lawn, water it, or pick flowers. I can't build anything, or even put up a tent. I don't carry things from the private domain (my house) to the public domain (the street, a park, or even my yard if it's not fenced in).

You read a lot in newspapers that work seems to be taking over every aspect of American life, and that people never have time to relax anymore. Americans work longer work hours than ever before, more than the 40 hours a week than they are paid for. They even can take their fax machines, laptops, modems, and cellular phones with them on vacation.

I don't have this problem and never will. On Shabbat, I feel absolutely no obligation to pick up the phone, no obligation to go to the mall, to watch television, to get into a car and go somewhere. It's a slowing down process. In fact, it is considered positive to take a nap on Shabbat afternoon!

Some branches of Judaism have eliminated many of these restrictions. But I'm an Orthodox Jew, so I live every seventh day with these restrictions intact, which allows it to be a true day of rest. I don't consider these restrictions to be a burden, although I used to. That was before life was so busy, and I didn't realize that if you're allowed to draw and write for fun, you'll end up doing things that aren't so much fun (studying, writing papers, making shopping lists, etc.) out of a sense of obligation or misplaced guilt.

It's not just that Shabbat is a day of rest, it's more than that. God created the world for six days and just "let the world be" on the seventh day. We recreate this weekly. Even if you're not religious, you can see that this makes sense. For six days, we create and we destroy, we build and we break, we work and we sleep. Sometimes we think that we run the world. In today's environmentally conscious world, we know that this cannot be true. So for one-seventh of my week, I say: It's not mine, and I'm just here to live in it.

How do I show that I don't own the world? I don't ride in cars on Shabbat, burning up precious fossil fuels and polluting the environment. Instead, I walk or stay home. I don't create or break electrical circuits on Shabbat. I don't cook on Shabbat. I don't tamper with nature by carving my landscape, by mowing or cutting or weeding or whacking. I don't use up paper by writing or use up batteries by listening to my Walkman. I don't waste precious energy and mind power staring dazedly at a television screen. God has given me this day to live in the world as it should be lived in, with as little human interference as possible. The silence is beautiful.

Shabbat is a gift from God to man. I have a lot of time to think and talk on Shabbat, and Shabbat helps me realize how much my family, friends, and God mean to me. I spend Shabbat morning at the synagogue, and Shabbat afternoon reading and visiting the elderly in a Jewish nursing home with my friends.

All in all, I feel incredibly blessed to be given this day, and thankful to be I raised in a house where true Shabbat observance is the norm. You may have trouble slowing down and taking a break from your otherwise stressful existences. I have no choice. I am forced to give a day back to God and humanity. Perhaps forced is the wrong word, though, because I cherish that day with all of my being. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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