18 January 2015

A Contemplative Moment: Sabbath

The Sabbath Soul

We live in a world dominated by speed and distraction, with demands for our attention at every turn. We are conditioned to approach time as a reality to be managed for optimal productivity; often we rush about our weeks with the frenzy of accomplishing and earning, worshiping the idols of egotism, pride, and greed. We are so consumed by that hunger for acquisition and expedition that we frequently forget the restorative blessing of stillness, our desperate need for rest. I speak not only of a rest from physical and emotional exhaustion --- a rest that aims to recharge us for greater productivity and speed --- but also a rest that brings us back to the center of existence, a calm that allows us to reconnect with the divine breath at the soul of All. It is a spirit that we feel when we are in tune with the rhythms of our own breath. It is the Sabbath, the seventh day.

On the day of rest we are liberated from our enslavement to multitasking, from all the electronic communication that pervades the six days of work. Unplugged from the world of commerce and the forms of connection that keep us at a remove from the living voice of the other, we are released into a zone of quiet and reflection --- a time in which the calm of solitude can find perfect balance with the community and relationship of Sabbath life. That is the true mystery of the Sabbath --- the sublime secret that so many religious people already know intimately.

On Shabbat, the world around us becomes still --- all the demands and the heaviness that we carry are released. They will return soon enough, but on Shabbat we are able to step back, to look at our lives from a protected distance, from the warm interior of sacred time. It is the twilight glimmer of the sun in descent --- the otherworldly texture of a time that is neither day nor night. The ancient rabbis called this moment "bein ha-shemashot" --- literally, "between the suns" --- an instant that stands both within the arc of earthly time and decidedly beyond it. . . .It is a time that whispers of mystery and redemption, a corridor within the hours that transports us to a new level of feeling and thought.

from The Sabbath Soul: Mystical Reflections on the Transformative Power of Holy Time
by Eitan Fishbane, PhD