• Doron Lazarus

Shabbat: Your Weekly Mindfulness Retreat

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Excerpted from authors new book, "Don't Mind If I Do" available on Amazon.

Shabbat can be a grand time. Lots of food, friends, family, socializing,

naps. Sign me up!

But, in order to get a deeper understanding of this awesome holiday that

comes every week from sunset on Friday to nightfall Saturday evening,

you must understand what exactly are you celebrating and how can

Jewish practice lead to a weekly retreat for your mind.

You might have heard this one before. God made the world in 6 days and

rested on the 7th. Therefore, we also rest on the 7th during Shabbat.

If that makes sense to you, you can stop right here.

But for me, I have a few questions. That might have sufficed when I was

6, but as an adult, something doesn’t exactly sit right.

Why exactly did God rest? Was He tired from a hard week at the office?

Was it those black holes and supernovas that tired Him out? And what

does this have to do with me? What does it even mean that God rested?

Is His Divine Throne some sort of heavenly Lazy Boy? Does God enjoy a

good red wine with His brisket too?

Something just doesn’t add up.

Take a look at the Torah text to try to make some sense of this.

And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good, and it

was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.

Now the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts.

And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He

abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did.

(Genesis 1:31 - 2:2)

Take a careful look at the text.

OK, you got it.

God finished creating everything on the 6th day, right?

I mean on the 7th… wait a second! Which one is it?

Rashi (The Medieval Super Commentary on the Torah) picks up on this

contradiction and pulls out the following idea to its defense.

Yes, God finished creating everything in 6 days. Light, air, earth, water,

fish, animals and people. The whole thing. Finito La Comedia!

But there was one thing left in the universe that was not yet created.

Rest. God created rest on the 7th day.

This is a fascinating observation. Now clearly, the rest He is referring to

does not mean sleep.

Armadillos and llamas slept already. They ate well too. They didn’t need

Shabbat for this.

Yet there was another type of rest that was not found across the far

corners of the universe.

It was mindfulness.

Yes, creatures get exhausted from a hard day of hunting prey in the

savanna. They collapse in fatigue. Grizzly bears bury themselves for

months at a time in a deep hibernation.

But to actively step back from your labor, to appreciate it even though

your body could continue working. That is Divine. That is rest. That is


True, God doesn’t get tired. He clearly didn’t rest because He couldn’t get

out of bed on Saturday. He actually used that day to create rest. He

wanted to give us a gift. He wanted to allow us to harness that power as

well. To go beyond our mundane lives and purposely refrain in order to

appreciate. He wanted us to be mindful beings, not robots.

This is a magnificent idea that needs further explanation.

Guard and Remember.

These two principles practically enable you to achieve this mindful

awareness that is so apt for the day.

The first practical tool of Shabbat is Remembering, Zachor.

On a simple level, it involves reciting the Kiddush prayer over a cup of

wine or grape juice Friday night. (Who doesn’t like a glass of Merlot to

end off the week?)

But there is a deeper level involved here too.

Being mindful and living in the present does not mean that you become

oblivious to past experiences and future events. Real mindfulness is

exactly the opposite. It means being acutely aware of your past and who

you are based on where you came from.

The difference is that a mindful person does not live in the past. They

don’t ruminate or regret and languish in previous challenges. They bring

their past into the present. They don’t ask “only if,” they ask “now what.”

There is a psychological principle called “closure”. It is usually applied to

negative events in one’s past, but it can be used for the positive as well.

The principle holds that in order for any individual to move beyond an

event and bring their life into the present, they need closure. They need

to wrap things up. Understand that it’s over. Have a sense of completion.

In its negative form, the process of Jewish burial and mourning is based

upon this concept. In order to ever move on and continue one’s life after

the loss of a loved one, you have to fully confront the tragedy, recognize

your emotions, come to completion and only then can you move to be


The same holds true for the positive. In order to really celebrate anything

in life, you must come to closure too. If in your financial goals, the

moment you hit the million-dollar mark, you are just looking forward to

how you will earn 2 million, you never appreciate what you have. It

wasn’t really a moment at all. And it’s like that in every area of life.

When’s the last time you took an opportunity to take stock of what you

have accomplished?

This is the power of Remembering. We remember Shabbat and the

creation of the world. You trace yourself all the way back to the Grandest

Plan, understanding that you are the product of an unbelievable story

unfolding. In a personal sense too, you become mindful of everything you

accomplished that week. All of your work and toil. Your failure and

success. Its closure. Time to celebrate and rejoice. Time to cut your losses

and move on.

Remember who are you and where you came from. But understand that

next week contains a fresh leaf and boundless opportunities.

The second is to guard. Shomer Shabbat. Seems a little funny. Does

Shabbat need me to stand watch like a British soldier outside

Buckingham Palace?

The guarding here refers to refraining from doing creative types of labor.

Taking something in the physical world and transforming it. Sewing,

cooking, writing, etc. Electronics fall in this category too. Power down

your devices for 24 hours. No driving also.

Think about what that does for your mindfulness. If the whole point of

mindfulness is to be fully aware of the present, refraining from creative

labor takes your perspective out of everyday chores and changing the

world around you. It allows you to focus on the here and now.

Judaism does not shy away from being involved in the world. Quite the


But one day a week the human mind needs a retreat. To stop going and

to just be.

This principle goes so far that you are not even supposed to plan for the

future or prepare for it in any way. If you want to wash the dishes Friday

night because you hate filthy dishes, go for it. But if you are doing it so

you can save time on Sunday, you missed the point. Stop trying to save

time and start enjoying it.

It’s not just that you don’t go to work or school. Shabbat challenges you

to actually view all your work as being completed.

Of course, on Sunday there are bills to pay, errands to do, papers to write

and deadlines to meet. But not on Shabbat. Shabbat is an active frame of

mind that you don’t have to let the pressure of life become your life. You

are independent from it.

You can be in debt thousands of dollars. But that is not you. That is your

bank account.

By pulling back from the world, you remind yourself that your ultimate

being is living in the present, without regret from the past or worry to the


Shabbat is an island in time and an island deserves to be well guarded.

Meditation Exercise: Imagine your life coming to a point of completion.

Every task and goal has been accomplished. Feel at peace in the


Excerpted from authors new book, "Don't Mind If I Do" available on Amazon.

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