A couple of months ago I decided to start trying to observe the Sabbath (Shabbat) as fully as I can.
No work, no social media, no vegetating on Netflix, no chores, no to-do lists.
As much as that probably sounds like a freaking wonderful vacation (which is the kind of the whole point), let me tell you– I spent the whole first Friday night angstily (?) pacing around the apartment, huffing and grumbling, sitting on the couch then standing up again unable to relax because I wanted to clean.
Not that the place was in any particular state of disrepair, I just really like cleaning. It made it so much more apparent why I needed the day of rest– I have not gone a single day of my adult life without some kind of to-do list or chore, to the point where I straight up don’t know what to do with myself without some kind of task.
At some point during my aggressive boredom, I had a flashback to what Liz Gilbert says in Eat, Pray, Love about the Italians, and how we Westerners have that stereotype of being unable to relax, while the Italians live deliciously with il bel far niente, the beauty of doing nothing. I couldn’t help but laugh at how right that bitch is. I practice meditation, I set aside time every week for dedicated self care, but I still can’t go a day without a to-do list and just sit still. So now, Shabbat is the way that I will practice il bel far niente, and damnit I’m gonna do it well.
I start every Shabbat with making challah. It would be way easier to just buy it, but I think meaningful rituals are important in spiritual life, and setting aside time to fully dedicate myself to making challah is both satisfying in a tactile way and a connection to the ancient tradition which helps me to connect to what the rest of the sabbath will be for me.
I’ve been using this recipe from The Kitchn with pretty great results (as you can see in my humblebrag photo above, nbd, first time making challah, whatever) and I think soon I’ll want to experiment with different herbs and maybe chocolate??
At the end of my first weekend observing Shabbat, I came to the somewhat startling realization that I felt more fully refreshed than I normally do after any given weekend. It really is so important for us in our modern age of constant connection to the world with the internet and micromanaged schedules to learn how to slow down and spend a dedicated part of our weeks fully resting. I guess that’s why, of all the things that could’ve been on the ten commandments, “observe the Sabbath” made the cut. God knows that we humans can’t keep running on empty, and that we are at our bests when we take a step back, acknowledge our shortcomings, and take the time to rest and recover without obligations to the things in this world that are temporary. After all, isn’t long-term stress one of like the top contributors to serious health problems??
M O R A L: Challah is tasty. Spending a day without a to-do list can be hard for us high-strung westerners, but MAN we need it.