Lately, “Shabbat” or Sabbath, more commonly known in English, has become a buzzword and a topic worth investigating.

Last year, Adeena Sussman’s book Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours became an instant bestseller. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Mayim Bialik, however, have been celebrating Shabbat even before then.

Today, countless people around the world are trying to incorporate a “Sabbath” back into their life, whether in the form of a one-day-a-week rest or the occasional sabbatical. Sometimes, it involves all the activities in their lives; sometimes, it focuses only on one aspect, such as technology. So what is Shabbat and how is it so life-changing?

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What is Shabbat?

Shabbat or Sabbath starts on Friday at sunset and ends at sunset on Saturday. Many commonly perceive it as a Jewish practice.

However, according to the Bible, the Sabbath predates the Jewish tradition. God designed it as a sacred day of rest and togetherness. Sabbath practice and observance have been going on around the world quite literally since week 1.

Putting religious beliefs aside, there’s one thing almost everyone can agree on: Sabbath is purposed for rest. Friday night until Saturday night is meant to be a time of intentional and holistic rest.

How to rest on Shabbat

Imagine a day where you have permission to think and connect with your family, free from the demands of cleaning the house, doing laundry, running errands or shopping. Imagine a whole 24-hour period where you and your family can spend time together, take delight in each other, eat “festive meals”, and pause from the hustle and bustle, and a consumeristic and materialistically driven society. Imagine being able to disconnect from the rat race, the endless phone scroll, the barrage of pointless notifications and digital crises that we and our kids are constantly exposed to. If you’re religious, it’s a day to pray and connect with God as well.

Just breathe and imagine it.

We often think rest means sleeping, not going to work or just chilling on the couch watching Netflix. Rest on Shabbat day however, is quite different. There is a special greeting that Jewish people give to each other on Sabbath. They say “Shabbat shalom”, Shabbat meaning Sabbath and shalom meaning complete peace of mind, soul and body. The rest on Shabbat is far more than just physical.

It sounds like the best day of the week.

Sabbath for the modern mum

You might be wondering, What is Sabbath like for a busy mum? How can a busy mum like me take one day off a week when I’m already burned out and struggling to keep up?

We don’t burn out because we are too busy physically; we burn out because our minds and hearts can’t bear the load anymore. That’s where Sabbath can completely transform your life if you let it.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the reason for our burnout is our failure to observe the Sabbath. We’re not only sleep-deprived, we’re Sabbath-deprived. We don’t take intentional time-outs for our mind, body, soul and spirit. If we don’t Sabbath, we never get a break.

Let go of the notion that the Sabbath is exclusively a Jewish day—it was created for all humankind. There’s nothing you need to do to make the Sabbath come to you. It comes to you in the flow of time as part of the seven-day week; a weekly gift whether you celebrate it or not. You don’t need to travel to some holy site or go on a pilgrimage. You can just choose to enter a “temple in time” that comes to you every single week.

How? There are just three simple steps.

1. Prepare

As a family, decide on some special activities or rituals you would like to do to celebrate the day. Special food is a great start, but think also about activities like taking a scenic walk or visiting friends.

If you can, spread your chores out throughout the week or on Friday before the sun sets. Clean, cook and do your laundry beforehand, so you don’t have to do any of that for 24 hours on a Sabbath. Clear your schedule so that nothing stress- or work-related is on the agenda for the entire day.

As Sabbath starts, it’s likely you will find your mind wandering to work stuff, stress, money, life. Prepare for that by having a box to put items in that will distract you, such as phones, laptops and even your wallets. Write down the things you’re worried about or haven’t finished, and then put them in the box. It will give you a chance to make it feel validated and taken care of until Sabbath is over.

2. Stop

Pause for 24 hours. Avoid work, cleaning, cooking or hustling. Instead, intentionally choose to rest. This will be challenging at first, but eventually, Sabbath will become your favourite day of the week.

3. Connect

Make the day extra special by spending it with the people you love. Think of it like a weekly Christmas, without the consumerism. Observing Shabbat is getting back to what life was meant to be about: Happiness, togetherness and peace. Enjoy the special day with your kids where you’re present, without anything else to do, anywhere else to be.

If you research Sabbath observance, some highly orthodox Jews may make the Sabbath look like a burden. There are 39 categories of Jewish law surrounding the Sabbath, filled with dos and don’ts.

However, the Sabbath is meant to be a holiday, a festive time that’s full of laughter, connection and love.

If you prefer a little more tradition

Religious Jews are not the only ones who have a Sabbath each week. Seventh-day Adventists and other Christian denominations do too.

Traditionally on Friday, before the sun sets, Jewish families and other Sabbath observers will clean their house, cook special food for Friday dinner and Shabbat meals (usually grape juice and unleavened bread), organise their clothes, and clear their schedule of appointments. They also plan to do something nice and fun, such as having friends over, going for a picnic or some other family activity together.

On Friday evening, family members will light Shabbat candles and eat a delicious Sabbath meal. Parents will give their children a special blessing and husbands will bless their wives. This is the time for togetherness, where everyone gets to sit and enjoy, even mums.

On Saturday morning, they may attend Shabbat morning service at church or the synagogue. It’s a time to remember their Creator and the reason why they’re on earth. Then they’ll enjoy a special lunch to celebrate the day and do something together as a family. On Saturday evening as the sun sets, families will gather and welcome in the start of a new week.

We often wish for 25 hours in a day or an eighth day to the week so we can get everything done. But honestly speaking, we know how we would spend that extra hour or day. It would be full of work, business, stress, hustle, social media and mindlessness.

The Sabbath day is a protest against busy mindlessness and a day to intentionally nurture our souls and our families.

What is Shabbat? It will change your life

We know our culture is completely and totally exhausting. We feel like mindless little mice, running endlessly on a spinning wheel, going in circles. We fill our lives with work, social media, chasing money or going on holidays. What we really need is rest, and connection and quality time with those we love.

The Jewish community and others who celebrate the Sabbath remember this each week. They remember and participate in the most important things in life. The things we all wish we had more time for. The things we will remember with fondness or regret on our final day.

If you need a real rest of mind, body and soul, the Sabbath is something that comes to you free-of-charge each week. You don’t need to travel or book into some fancy hotel, you just need to enter the Sabbath. It’s a double portion of joy, peace and love all in one day.

What to read next?

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