All week I have felt tired. Not just take a nap tired. Tired to the bone. Perhaps more accurately, tired in my heart. Every day seems to hold its own disaster or political mountain to climb. Floods, deportations, white supremacy. Not to mention the challenges we carry personally, divorce, depression, grief, illness. It takes tremendous effort to maintain our own dignity in the midst of so much suffering. This is precisely why shabbat exists, and why I am grateful its time has come.
On this Labor Day weekend, in the midst of Elul, I offer you this vision of rest in five stages that I think captures the essence of the restorative and redemptive powers of shabbat observance. Brought to you by the poet David Whyte:
"Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving; an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals...
In the first state of rest is the sense of stopping, of giving up on what we are have been doing or how we have been doing. In the second, is the sense of slowly coming home, the physical journey into the body's un-coerced and un-bullied self, as if trying to remember the way or even the destination itself. In the third state is a sense of healing and self-forgiveness and of arrival. In the fourth state, deep in the primal exchange of the breath, is the give and the take, the blessing and the being blessed and the ability to delight in both. The fifth stage is a sense of absolute readiness and presence, a delight in and an anticipation of the world and all its forms; a sense of being the meeting itself between the inner and outer, and that receiving and responding occur in one spontaneous moment.
A deep experience of rest is the template of perfection in the human imagination..."
May we all be blessed with ability to pause, come home, heal, forgive, and ultimately delight in this world, which is the true meaning of "Oneg Shabbat." And may trust that deep rest will in fact ready us for the work that lies ahead.
Rabbi Ari Lev