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The Shabbat is the most powerful means of maintaining one`s sanity and human dignity in today`s world of turbulence and terror.

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Adapted and condensed from Parashah Velikchah by Rabbi Moshe Grylack

The concept of a weekly day of rest is widely accepted in today's world. Modern man acknowledges that it pays to avoid burn-out by taking a periodic rest and renewing our resources. In particular it is the younger generation, which grew up steeped in the blessings – and stresses – of technological advances, who understand the principles involved and endorse them.

The Biblical concept of the seventh day as one of spiritual renewal was first observed only by the Jewish People. It was only centuries later that the idea was embraced by both the Western world, that is, the Church, and later, by Islam. Both groups transferred their Sabbath to a different day of the week in order to differentiate their faiths from that of Israel. Sunday became the day of rest for the followers of the Nazerene; Mohammed's  disciples chose Friday as their weekly sabbath.

Today's secular Jews may take pride in being saluted as the "inventors" of the Day of Rest, but few have any inkling that the Shabbat is the most powerful means of maintaining one's sanity and human dignity in today's world of turbulence and terror. The most potent tonic or medicament cannot compare to the power of the Shabbat to imbue the Jew with the vitality he needs to enjoy the six workdays which follow. Authentic observance of Shabbat provides moral and spiritual dimensions not available anywhere else.

Shabbat is commonly construed as a day of physical rest or repose. The fact of the matter is that this aspect of Shabbat is only the key with which the Jew unlocks the door of a vast treasure house. We must board a plane in order to fly round the world, but only a naive child can be duped into thinking that the initial flight is all there is to the grand tour. So too, it is only the uninitiated who reduce the Jewish Sabbath to a day of physical rest.

What, then, is the benefit of the Shabbat? The truth of the matter is that it must be experienced in order to be appreciated. A few words of explanation, however, may afford the reader something of an insight.

Modern living exacts an excruciating toll from our qualities as human beings. How can one experience and express his emotions to a fellow human being while hurtling down the expressway of life at today's speeds? Events, people, and relationships flash by and disappear before the heart can absorb them and formulate a reaction. There is no time to breathe, much less develop and express, a sensitivity to the needs of others. How much less is there an interval in which we can express that sensitivity in carefully chosen words and actions? It is out of the question. Before we deal with one event, another ten are pounding on the door (cellphone, email, and beeper) with urgent demands on our time and attention. With today's hurried, harried pace of living, there is no place for kindness, compassion, charitable living and giving. 

Any last fragment of our peace of mind is shattered by the constant barrage of advertising which assaults modern man at every turn. You thought you were well-dressed and could devote your time and energies to other avenues? We'll convince you that your wardrobe is out-of-date and should be replaced. You were under the impression that you were adequately equipped with your car/cellphone/computer/ipod/digital camera until now? Just look what's new on the market! Suddenly yesterday's product is unacceptable; it's obsolete, and must be replaced.

And so it goes endlessly with Madison Avenue creating artificial needs based on artificial gains of passing value which have nothing to do with enhancing man's spirit, heart, or soul and nurturing its growth. The outcome? A human soul that is underdeveloped, undernourished, and atrophied from lack of use. There is no time to enjoy a friendly conversation and cultivate a warm bond of friendship. In fact, we cannot find the time to speak even to ourselves. We no longer know our neighbors, our relatives, or our children; for that matter, do we know ourselves, deep within?

The Shabbat is the stop sign that compels the Jew to put his foot on the brake and come to a full stop. Once he is standing still, he can begin to take stock of where he is. He can take a moment to consider where he will end up if he continues along his current path. Above all, the full stop of Shabbat affords the Jew an opportunity take out the map, locate himself in the overall picture and review his progress to date. Only then, when the cacophony of the telephone (both lines), the fax, the Blackberry, the computer and the doorbell are temporarily muted, is it quiet enough to detect the still, small voice within, and to listen to its sage advice. Only with the help of the Shabbat can we become privy to the information we need in order to determine whether we're racing along life's path toward a destination we truly wish to reach. 

The average Western adult today is a modern-day Gulliver, tied to the earth he lies upon by hundreds of ropes and pegs pounded into place by the dwarfs that surround him. Each tiny human on his own would pose no threat, but by virtue of their great number, miniature natives manage to subdue Gulliver and make him their prisoner. We, too, are prisoners of our times. Only authentic Shabbat observance can set us free. The halachah teaches us how to cut ourselves free from the ropes that bind us to the earth. One of its goals is to achieve inner calm and harmony and nurture man's soul.

The Jewish Sabbath is far more than the "creative break" of modern psychology. For twenty-five hours, man lays down the tools with which he masters and controls the physical world. Now he is free to take in hand those tools which enable him to nurture his inner soul. On Shabbat, even the greatest artist may draw and sculpt only his inner character. He may sing and give expression to the melodies that lie within his own soul, but he may not pluck upon the strings of any instrument other than his own heart. For six days of the week, he is the product of external creative forces and pressures, especially in our days of technological advance. In contrast, on Shabbat, he is released from the bonds which bind him to the world of technology. 

Today's secular Jew may be hard-pressed at the prospect of twenty-four hours with no phone or car available to him. He has become the unwitting slave of his possessions, so that he feels vulnerable and powerless without them. The observant Jew will not be bored or helpless when cut off, temporarily, from his technological environment. He has already spent over one-seventh of his life observing Shabbat, and is confident of his ability to function and enjoy a full, rich Shabbat without relying on technological advances. The Sabbath observer has developed an inner communication system with his own soul which keeps him from becoming bored. He has developed the art of communicating with his Maker and with his family and friends, face-to-face; no electronic aids or intermediaries are required. He and his family enjoy each other's company, and look forward to quality, unstressed time together, on the seventh day of every week. True, he closes the door on the external world of commerce and entertainment for that day, but the very same motion opens wide the door to his inner soul. 

The Jewish Sabbath keeps the vehicle of life moving along the right path, just as wheels allow the cart to advance toward its final destination. No one would remove the wheels of his wagon in order to lighten his wagon; similarly, no one who has tasted the sublime flavor of Shabbat would forgo its delights.

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