There are five days of the workweek and two days of the weekend, and many of us work on every one of them. Such is the life of a young adult in 2019. Shabbat served as a continuation of my packed schedule. I saw no reason to make Shabbat special, but because my parents kept Shabbat, I pretended to for appearance’s sake.
One day, disaster struck, and its name was Calculus. The midterm was scheduled to take place on a Saturday. Since I’m a commuter, my family would have known if I took the bus to college.
“I can’t take the exam on Saturday because I’m Jewish. I keep the Sabbath.” I remember saying this line to the professor and wondering why he understood it so well when I didn’t understand it myself.
Quite by accident, though, one of the JAM representatives asked me if I was Jewish when I was walking back from the gym. “What gave me away?” I joked.
Nothing, as it turned out. This is a line that they use often (maybe because it works). They invited me to a Shabbaton. “Sure,” I agreed, hoping that I wasn’t making a mistake. I didn’t know how I’d go 24 hours without studying or doing something productive. Here’s what actually happened: I talked with the kinds of people that made me forget about checking the time. I went to bed at half past midnight. In the morning, I was well-rested in a way that had nothing to do with sleep. It was the product of good conversations with friends and no real pressure to go anywhere for 24 hours.
So, the first reason that I started keeping Shabbat was that being in a large group made it easy. I realized that there were motivated, intelligent students who kept Shabbat because it contributed to their lives. It didn’t happen overnight (actually, it happened over a year), but I started to keep Shabbat on the days when I was surrounded by friends. The real temptation to check my phone or refresh my email came when I was alone.
The second reason that I started keeping Shabbat was that I realized what I was missing. I loved reading and never had the time for it. On Shabbat, I could easily get through four business or psychology books. I was also missing out on family interaction. Keeping Shabbat enabled me to play more Would-You-Rather games with my youngest stepsister, have long conversations with my grandparents, and hear my mom read from the diary that she kept as a teenager. Shabbat became the day that I looked forward to the most.
The third reason I decided to keep Shabbat was the feeling of being burnt out. Studying late into the night, working part-time as a caregiver, and balancing three extracurricular activities meant that I had no break, because I never clearly defined one. People glorify the notion of working yourself to the bone, but life is about more than just nonstop action. This year, I’ve kept Shabbat, and I intend to continue. Knowing that I have a day at the end of the week to relax motivates me to work harder in anticipation of it.