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May 5, 2017  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Slow down for hidden blessings

By RABBI ROBERT D. JUDD Congregation Kol Ami, Tampa

One of my favorite Hasidic rebbes is Reb Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, author of Kedushat Levi, the first sefer (book) of Hasidic thought. The story is told that one day Reb Levi Yitzhak was walking through the town square and watching people rushing about. He called out to one of the people and asked him, “What are you rushing for?” The man replied, “I am running to make a living.” Reb Levi Yitzhak looked at the man and said, “What makes you so sure that your livelihood is in front of you so that you have to rush to catch up? What if it is behind you? Maybe you should stop to let it catch up to you!”

The above story took place in the nineteenth century; however, it resonates with us today in a profound way. We are very much like the fellow rushing about to catch up with his livelihood. We are run ragged. We work harder than ever. People feel pressure to juggle career and family, ambition and recreation. It seems that the harder we work, the more compelled we feel to work more. We really don’t have time for recreation or leisure anymore. We are connected 24/7. There is no escape from work in the age of email and text messaging. We are so busy trying to make a living that we let life pass us by. We are so busy rushing forward that we hardly notice the blessings that we pass.

Shabbat is one antidote to this pressure to be moving constantly, to be chasing a goal that becomes more elusive the harder we chase it. We know that the holy times on our calendars are important. The festivals and the observances all have their place. However, Shabbat is the one day we have each week to pause, to reflect and to breathe.

In ancient days, Shabbat was a protest against slavery. Being a slave means that you are not in control of your own time – you are always at the beck and call of someone else. Shabbat breaks us free from that: we have control of our time. Shabbat is the perfect antidote to the stress and pressures of the world.

When we rest, we get an opportunity to put things into focus. When we are not moving from one thing to another, we can look at the bigger picture and evaluate our lives. When we allow ourselves to be overcome by an unending succession of pressures, we lose our natural rhythms of work and rest, of creating and relaxing. We lose the ability to enjoy the here and the now.

A Hasidic friend of mine always says that food tastes better on Shabbat. I think he means that his Shabbat food tastes better because he can linger over the meal and not have to worry about answering the phone, the text, the email. He can simply enjoy the meal with his family and those gathered at his table.

We need to take regular stops along the way to rest and breathe. We were not created to be robots moving from one task to the next. Nor were we created to be perpetual motion machines. We were created in the image of the Holy One who, after creating the universe, sat and breathed.

The world is a wonderful place filled with awesome and breathtaking moments. If we rush by, we will miss them. We need to take time to experience them as fully as we can. The blessings of the world are not always hidden. And if they are, they are hidden in plain sight. All we have to do is slow down and rest. Once we do that, they will be able to catch up.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association which assigns the column on a rotating basis.

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