What's the Hardest Part of Shabbos?

Thursday, 23 October, 2014 - 12:06 pm

Question of the Week:

I am almost convinced to keep Shabbos properly this week in honour of the Shabbos Project. But I like to know what I am getting into. Can you tell me, what is the single most difficult thing about keeping Shabbos? I figure if I can handle the hardest part, I can do it all....


I wouldn't call keeping Shabbos hard. It may be a shift, a change in routine, particularly for those who haven't done it before. But it doesn't have to be hard. If you are well prepared it will be a breeze.

I can only think of one aspect of keeping Shabbos that is actually difficult. It's not the walking and it's not abstaining from technology. It's easy to switch off your phone. What's not so easy is to switch off your mind.

The Talmud says that when Shabbos arrives, you should act and feel as if all your weekday work is done. No loose ends, no unfinished projects, nothing left to do. On Friday afternoon you may have been in the middle of negotiating a major deal, half way through your final exams, waiting to hear back from a potential employer, or in the midst of a major renovation, but as the sun sets and Shabbos arrives, all these have to be seen as finished, done, completed, closed cases. The deal is signed, the exam is passed, the job is secured, the renovation is complete. Not just that you'll get back to it after Shabbos, but rather it is all over, there is nothing left to do.

It isn't enough to take a pause in your work. You have to be above it. You need to take a conscious step out of the weekday mindset and into the world of Shabbos. You're not just stopping work, you're transcending work. You can't just leave the mundane world on hold, you have to sever ties with it. If your body is sitting at the family table but your head is at work that's not a real Shabbos. Your mind has to be in it too.

This is why when we sing Lecha Dodi, the Friday night prayer that welcomes the Shabbos, we turn around to face the back of shul, and then spin around to face the front again. We are saying farewell to our weekday lives, leaving behind the stresses and distractions of the last six days, and pivoting towards a Shabbos mentality. The physical act of turning around serves to illustrate the shift in mindset that is required to enter into Shabbos. To fully experience the Shabbos rest, you have to leave your weekday self behind, and become a Shabbos being.

The hardest part of keeping Shabbos is not disconnecting your phone. It's disconnecting your mind. And it is the most rewarding part of Shabbos too. When you reach that space of inner rest, when you truly leave the demands of the week, then you have entered Shabbos. When you stop doing what you do, you can really be who you are.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

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