By: Robert Couse-Baker

“Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t f***ing ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t f***ing roll!”

– Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in “The Big Lebowski”

As a kid, there was no mistaking when Sunday rolled around. Sunday was so clearly different than any other day. The morning began early, but was quiet and subdued. After returning from church, the house would quickly fill with the rich smells of a decadent breakfast, which might even include store-bought danish if we were lucky. The entire family gathered around the table for a long, lazy breakfast before retreating to our respective corners for a few hours.

If my grandparents were in town (which, looking back, seemed to be most weekends), dinner was a heavy mid-afternoon meal that was carefully timed to coincide with halftime of the Packers game – one of the only times the television was on during the day.

The day moved on a special schedule, with a cadence and rhythm all its own. The day was slower, quieter, calmer. The day was sacred.

Somewhere, somehow, between then and now, things changed. Weekends became about chores and errands, laundry and grocery shopping, emails and work projects. Since I do most of my freelance work while the kids are sleeping or otherwise occupied, Sunday is just another workday for me, which is exacerbated by my addiction to technology and social media. My iPhone is rarely out of arm’s reach so that I can read and respond to emails quickly, monitor any earth-shattering Facebook news, and generally be ready just in case something comes up.

Sundays have lost their serenity, their healing quality. The mornings are just as rushed as any other morning, the afternoons are just as busy as any other afternoon, and by the evening, I am just as exhausted as I am on any other evening.

Part of this is due to the fact that my husband and I are raising two young children. Gone are the days of sleeping in and lazy brunches and long, quiet walks, that’s for sure. But even aside from the “Groundhog Day” repeating quality of life that comes with young children, I can’t help but notice that, as my Sundays became busier, as they became filled with activities and outings and chores, my entire week lost a certain purity. And I lost a sense of sacred connection – to family, to self, to the divine – as a result.

I have been toying with the idea of incorporating a flexible and evolving Sabbath day into my life for some time now and when my spirituality group recently discussed “The Sabbath World” by Judith Shulevitz, I was further inspired to create my own personal shabbos (the Yiddish word for Shabbat). As part of my Stepping Out challenge, I have committed myself to doing something that forces me out of my comfort zone each month and since I recently finished a month-long physical undertaking that included regular yoga, now seems like the right time to try this spiritual lifestyle change.

While I don’t plan to follow orthodox rules of Shabbat (i.e. Walter Sobchak’s prohibition on bowling), nor do I have a particular day set in stone, I do plan incorporate the core principles of a spiritual day of rest. Whether a Jewish Shabbat from sundown on Friday through Saturday evening, a Christian Sabbath on Sunday, or a Buddhist rest day every 7-8 days, the principles of sacred time are the same: rest, reflection, and reconnection.

Shabbos, for me, will be about delegating time to look inward, rather than reaching outward. A time to focus on what I have, instead of searching for something new. A time to disconnect from work and technology in order to reconnect with family and friends, both near and far. A time to quiet the external noise so that I can hear my own powerful voice.

Whether or not my shabbos includes bowling or not remains to be seen.

Do you celebrate the Sabbath, Shabbat, or other sacred or secular day of rest? If so, how?

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  1. I’m actually shomer shabbos which means that from about 40 minutes before sundown on Friday until about 40 minutes after sundown on Saturday I don’t drive a car, turn on lights, use a computer, phone or technology of any kind, cook, or watch TV. Since I grew up this way, I don’t really know any different. But what I do know is that I absolutely could not exist with this mandatory 25 hour time out. It’s the day where I recharge, spend time with family and friends, go to my synagogue if I happen to get up early enough, and read books. That I have shabbos makes me happier, healthier, and calmer every other day of my life because I know that no matter what kind of week it’s been, when Friday afternoon rolls around, everything stops. I can’t say enough about how much it adds to my life, and how much better of a person it makes me.

    • Christie

      Loved hearing your thoughts, Samantha. Really. This is just the kind of thing I’m going for. The one thing that I think is really helpful is community. That’s part of what I’m hoping to get by publicly announcing my plans.

    • Christie

      Thanks. I’m actually looking forward it. Though when I think about putting my cell phone away for a day, I get the shakes a little.

  2. I need to be better about setting a day of rest – when I do, I am so much more peaceful and ready to face the week. I love this idea about being intentional in resting, I may tag along on your experiment…

  3. A couple of Sundays ago The Big Lebowski was on TV, and so we sat and watched it. Not for the first time or even the second. It’s so funny… We don’t turn off all media on Sundays, or go to church, but we do allow ourselves to do nothing and recharge. It’s important, for all the reasons you point out. Your post makes me want to go bowling – no the Wii or X-box version – an actual bowling alley. One Sunday I just might!

  4. What things will you avoid on your sabbath? What things will you actively do?

    I’ve never held a sabbath and have only a hazy notion on what the rules are. Not turning on lights seems silly to me, but maybe I’m just missing the point. Still, the concept seems interesting, even appealing. Here in Germany, no stores are open on Sundays so I don’t go shopping on that day. I do use media: it’s the only day of the week I can talk with a close friend of mine and there’s no way I’ll give up Skype and lose that connection. I’m not about to give up a day of practicing recorder, either. That leaves me wondering what would make the day different at all.

    I do turn off my computer before dinner. After dinner, I’ll read or use a biofeedback device to calm down, then walk the dogs, journal about positive things, and get ready for bed. I do sweep once a week because it’s one of the few times that my dogs aren’t on the floor, but generally I avoid chores. Maybe that’s somewhat similar to sabbath, though it’s a few hours every day rather than an entire day once a week.

    • Christie


      My shabbos/sabbath is currently a bit of a work in progress. For the past several weeks, I have been shutting down on Saturday night – no internet, no cell phone, no tv, no chores, no work – until Sunday night at 8. I agree with you that the time is less important than the sentiment behind the actions, which is why some weeks, I think that my shabbos/sabbath may be a Friday night to Saturday night thing or maybe even just a few hours on a Wednesday night. Whatever the time and the specifics, I wanted a way to force myself to check back in with myself, learn how to be present in my own thoughts a bit more, and focus on those around me. I make sure to pray or meditate and if I write, I do it long hand (not on the computer). I spend time outdoors just appreciating nature, which I don’t tend to do the rest of the week. I think that the intentions are the most important part of it all.

  5. Pingback: On Mindfulness and a Crisp, Cool Clearing

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