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Rabbi Naomi Levy Headshot

The Sabbath Unplugged

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"The Sabbath is a taste of the world to come."
-The Talmud

A dear friend of mine recently moved her office into her home. When she first began working out of the house, her biggest fear was that her home life would distract her from her work. She worried she'd be answering the home phone too much, finding excuses not to work. She thought she might spend too much time grazing in the refrigerator.

But a very different problem emerged. Her work invaded her home life. She said it might be 11:00 PM and she was still finding excuses to do more work, to respond to more emails.

We live in a time when so many boundaries are being blurred. Our work invades our home; our work invades our time with our kids, our spouses, our friends. I bumped into a friend of mine on the street and he had two different cell phones, one in each pocket that he was switching back and forth between as we were talking. He looked like he was drowning. Our cars have become our offices. Our phones have become our computers. Our computers have become our TVs. When my kids were young, I swore I'd never let them have TVs in their bedrooms. But we did let them have computers. And now my son watches YouTube in his room while my daughter stares at The Gilmore Girls in hers.

Ecclesiastes wisely teaches us, "To everything there is a season. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to build and a time to tear down." But he didn't mean all at once!

All the lines are getting blurred. What happens when you lose your boundaries? What happens when you mix all the playdough colors together? I know it's a big crime, but I've done it, haven't you? What do you get? Excrement. Everything turns to brown.

When we live with blurred boundaries life starts to happen to us and we're not even there to enjoy it.

In June I went to get my summer haircut. The woman who was cutting my hair was on her Bluetooth having a big fight with her husband. She wasn't even paying attention to what she was doing to my head. She kept yanking my hair and snipping away as she screamed at him. Finally I said, "Stop. I'm not a mannequin. I'm a rabbi. I can help you with your husband." But by the time she stopped she had already given me a shag. I looked just like David Cassidy. All summer long my husband Rob kept turning to me singing, "I Think I Love You."

All creation begins with chaos. But creation happens through a process of separation: light and darkness, day and night, land and sea, heaven and earth. It's only through separation that colors start to emerge: green, yellow, blue, red.

If we live in a blur, everything suffers. Creation suffers, vision suffers. We're all capable of so much goodness, so much creativity and love, but we keep getting lost in chaos.

The greatest way I know to restore boundaries is to take a Sabbath day of rest. You don't have to be Jewish to have a Sabbath. Just celebrate your faith's day of rest and unplug yourself from your cell, your smartphone and your computer. Or if you do not follow a faith tradition, take a day and call it your Sabbath. Sabbath rest allows you to make a clear distinction between what is work and what is not, between the mundane and the sacred. Jewish tradition gives God many names. One of them is Shadai, which means "the God who said, 'Enough! I'm done creating." Can you say "enough" to your work week? Can you find the space to breathe, to let go, to experience gratitude, awe, joy?

Taking a Sabbath day allows you to live in color, to once again see life with the fresh eyes of a child. It is a way to turn your brown world into a rainbow of peace and light. It's a way to return to the old story called your life, your home, your family, and to find something holy and new and sacred there.

Around the Web

Unplugging on the Sabbath - NYTimes.com

National Day of Unplugging Was a Huge Success « Sabbath Manifesto

Group urges unplugging to take back Sabbath - CNN.com

Tanya Schevitz: Ben Greenman and the Sabbath Challenge to Unplug