In our secular lives, so many of us hold fast to TGIF, thankfulness for escape from overwhelming schedules and the tensions of the week. TGIF seems to be a tacit acknowledgment of our need for the weekend to catch our breath and try to catch up altogether, as well as to forget about the various pressures and burdens that pull us down.
It is ironic that Judaism, among its many qualities and dimensions, is an amazing time management system, which, unfortunately, most Jews don’t seem to have time for.
Not only are all its holidays and observances built around time. They each provide levels of awareness of the preciousness and uniqueness of whatever moment you are in. As indicated on the Days of Awe, each holiday has its extension into the entirety of the year. We don’t merely focus on Passover, i.e. the Exodus from Egypt, at Seder time and during that Pesach week; we reference going out of Egypt throughout the year as reminder that the Jewish value system is built on the significance of getting out from under the Pharaohs of our lives and turning Avodah as “slavery”, whether enslavement to people or to time itself, into Avodah as meaningful and life affirming “service” to God and our fellow humans. We don’t merely focus on Teshuva, “change” for the better, on Yom Kippur; we reference such life-affirming change in the content and structure of our Daily Journey of Partnership with God, the Daily Amidah, as the number two priority, after celebrating our ability to learn and know: the gift of recovering from mistakes and relief from stress from errors we make.
The same is true for Shabbat. The great gift of Shabbat is its providing access to the most important word and value in the Judaic system: all that is “Kadosh”, “memorable, precious, significant, treasurable, valuable, excellent, transcendent…Holy”. Shabbat, which means “stopping”, is the means by which we can reflect on life meaning and the many under-appreciated blessings of life. Arguably, Shabbat is the most important holiday of the year, and like all the holidays, which have echoes of their presence throughout the year (Sukkot, our Thanksgiving holiday is not just celebrated 5 days after Yom Kippur; we reference it every day in our night time prayer for God’s presence as we sleep, Hashkiveynu, referring to our world as a Sukkah of Shalom), so Shabbat has echoes of its presence every day of our lives. The sages say that in any given day the goal is to notice and utter as many as a hundred blessings of appreciation for the good and preciousness we find in a particular moment.
As a time management system, Judaism indicates that stopping is essential to access the realm of Kadosh, that we only can appreciate our lives when we stop long enough to notice what is going well in our day, week, month and year. So, while Shabbat is dedicated as a day to notice blessings, to reflect on the week that was, what went well and what we could improve, the goal of Shabbat is to remind us that in any given day we can and must find times to pause for such reflection as well. In doing so, we give ourselves opportunities to consider any course corrections and to ponder decisions to make or not make that can enhance our day and the meaning we find in our daily lives.
As a time management system, Judaism disputes the business claim that stopping is “down time” and or that “time is money”. Stopping is actually high leverage action that can allow us perspective to make better and more effective decisions that will even and especially enhance activity in the business world. In Judaism, time is not money; time is “opportunity”; both words come from the same root: zman.
As you consider the impact of the Days of Awe and Sukkot, Jewish Thanksgiving, now behind you, with American Thanksgiving approaching (Please note our annual interfaith Thanksgiving service this year will be on Tuesday (not Wednesday), Nov. 25 at CBI), this is a wonderful time and context to reflect on how you use time and the opportunity to apply Judaism’s formula for “success”; the formula goes as follows:
+ Shabbat/stopping to appreciate, evaluate and anticipate,
= Kadosh, a life that is worth living, blessed with excellence, significance, preciousness, wonderful memories and Life Meaning, i.e. Holiness.
How wonderful it could be to make more time for this amazing time management system that is God’s gift to us all. For in honoring time in this way, you are tapping into the essence of God, whose name that we do not pronounce spells the verb “To Be, i.e. Consciousness in Time”.
With the first of November arriving on Saturday, I wish you:
Shabbat Shalom! (Which means: “Stopping for Wholeness”…that all the fragments of your life come together… as One)