Time Out – Parshat Bereishit

There are concepts that seem so natural to us that we wouldn’t ordinarily think that someone had to think of it. I don’t mean theoretical advances which then led to technological accomplishments in different fields like transportation, communication and medicine. Those have made an impact and it would be easy to trace their impact on the lives of individuals and the society as a whole.

I mean something less tangible. 'Rest' is such a concept. According to Rashi, the concept of rest apparently needed to be created.1 Huh? Yup. It was so important that it became a part of the 7-day Creation. What a paradox! In order to have a Creation, you need to have rest. We need to take time out. We need to replenish. We need to, well, rest.

Isn’t that obvious? Apparently not, says, Rabbi Shabtai Bass, the 17th century author of Sifsei Chachamim, an extensive work elucidating the commentary of Rashi. The Torah says that "God completed His work on the seventh day."1 Yet there seems to be no record of anything being done on the seventh day. So, what does it mean that he 'completed' His work? What was created on the 7th day? Rest. If it had not been created, says Rabbi Bass, we would all be workaholics burning out quickly - and that would be the norm.

 

In our modern culture, we take it for granted that we need downtime. Whether we meditate, listen to music, play a video game or just call a friend, we appreciate taking a few minutes rest from our project at hand. Throughout the world, it is now recognized as a basic human need.2 Interestingly, almost every culture throughout history which experimented with different-sized weeks all included a full day of rest.3 We need it. In fact, the category of work that is actually forbidden on Shabbat is called Melechet Machashevet, meaning creative work.4 We refrain from creating…and we rest.

How we choose to use that time can make a difference in whether or not it leads to meaning.5 It is our choice in how we utilize that downtime. In addition, how we relate to this downtime is also important. For instance, there are people who believe that if you are not engaged in creative, obviously constructive activity, you are loafing and wasting time. I do not agree. Downtime itself can be extremely constructive. We need it in order to be creative.

Create! Do! And then, rest.

Shabbat Shalom! And have Menuchat Shabbat.

 

Notes

  1. Bereishit 2:3 and Rashi's commentary
  2. In logotherapy, Dr. Viktor Frankl described 3 paths to meaning – though one path is through doing and creating, a different one is the experiential path. Refraining from the regular creative and consciously experiencing the world around us, can be its own path to 
  3. Here is an interesting conversation about the different week lengths practised by different cultures - historical and contemporary. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoStupidQuestions/comments/2abkt3/is_the_7_day_week_universal/
  4. Chagiga 10b
  5. The meaning of the word 'rest' will be part of an upcoming blog – stay tuned…

Have A Great Shabbat!laughing

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