I started writing this post using the word “struggle” but I have never struggled with keeping shabbos. I believe very strongly that Hashem has more things to worry about than my turning the thermostat up or ripping toilet paper. Still, if I am staying by people who are shomer shabbos, I will keep it out of respect and an understanding why it’s important to them.
The modern world affords us every opportunity to keep connected 24/7. While the originator(s) of shabbos might not have had iPhones and Facebook in mind, there was a purpose to disconnect and rest. In those days, when yidden were quite literally slaves or indentured servants, it made sense to mandate a full day of rest for self-preservation. I’ll admit a less than healthy addiction to my iPhone in particular, so when I’m “forced” to keep shabbos I actually relish the break.
What I don’t understand is the massive baiting of the Off the Derech community towards someone who kept shabbos despite not believing in it. Selling out? He kept for a good reason, and with the donator’s full knowledge that going through the motions were pretty meaningless.
Which brings me to the next point – is it that hard to keep shabbos? I guess if I didn’t have philosophical arguments with the Hashem-driven purpose that it would be easier. I do think it’s juvenile and misguided to go after someone who keeps shabbos with such fervor that your entire existence for 25 hours is wrapped up in how much you can annoy him afterwards. I have a hard time calling myself “off the derech” at times like these. Is it really such a big deal? Ridiculing for doing good?
I would keep shabbos until Tuesday every week for the rest of my life if it meant having custody of my kids. Is that selling out?
Chabad is well known for their “island in time” kiruv for Jews keeping shabbos. Why does it work so well for secular yidden? Because we’re so wrapped up in being “on” all the time that hitting the breaks on the world for a day looks like a pretty appetizing idea. I looked forward to shabbos recently even if it meant no cell phone because I could stop the world turning so fast for a little while.
My new job, contrary to my last two, does not come with a cell phone or laptop. When I leave the office at night, nobody expects me to respond at 10pm. My weekends are my own. I’m able to concentrate on my kid with more energy and enthusiasm than I have in the last three years because I’m not waiting for a buzz or a flashing red light to spring me like a firefighter into the next corporate fire. I have my own time again. Every night can be a little island in time, a little shabbosdik.
In my previous life, shabbos was a dreaded chore. There’s no “rest” for a young mother keeping kids occupied and clean for 25 hours. That sinking feeling when shabbos was approaching made life very difficult. I wasn’t shutting off from anything. The world tilted slightly, but it never stopped.
I’m not advocating for weary executives to start keeping shabbos. We all have to do what’s right for ourselves without judgement from anyone about our beliefs. An irreligious break from the world, even if it’s to bathe our kids or read a paperback? Great idea. A fake shabbos to help children in need? Absolutely.
The holiness in this shabbos isn’t that an atheist who used to be a chusid kept it. It’s that it was purposeful outside of himself.
Untethering allows us to look up. To not Instagram our food or video the latest dumb stunt our friends do. To engage with human beings in a purposeful way. Do it on a Sunday. A Tuesday evening. Don’t mock those who choose to do it.
Find your own purpose.