Shabbat: Productive Pausing

Shabbat, the most steadily recurring Jewish observance, acts as a buffer to the pressures of everyday life. It could be the stressors of one’s profession for some people; for others, it’s the constant pull toward technology. For many, disconnecting from everything can be a challenge and a stressor of its own, but the benefits of doing so offer the perfect remedy to the continual “grind” and need for constant production indicative of a larger, more extensive neglect of rest in the contemporary world.

Shabbat refreshes us. Working without pause often leads to burnout—a condition the World Health Organization defines as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

Stress fathers burnout. Because of how common stress has become in the lives of  the modern workplace, we accept unhealthy doses of stress as normal. This can be detrimental to mental and physical health. When stressed, your body is in a near-constant state of flight-or-fight, exhausting both you and your immune system. Burnout manifests as exhaustion, a feeling of removal from one’s profession and failure to produce perfect work. Many people face burnout without realizing its best repellent is rest. 

Shabbat is a time to cease from work. We first encounter it in Genesis, where G-d “rested” from the act of creating the world. Shabbat acts as a clean slate; after a full week of pushing one’s mind and body to the extreme, it provides a chance for the rest and recuperation necessary for your mental health. In fact, rest has been scientifically proven to increase productivity. This medical study presented the effect fatigue has on the brain; when resting, one becomes significantly more productive in their work. Resting clears your mind and restores your ability to think creatively. 

States of rest vary. Many find rest to be whatever clears their mind, whether it’s exercise or crocheting. Others try to avoid tasks they identify as draining, instead interpreting resting as sleeping or reading. Some people also take the time to learn, recite Tehillim (Psalms) or pray as their form of rest.

Rest is not merely beneficial to one’s mental health; it’s crucial. Many professionals recommend scheduling time into one’s daily routine to avoid burnout and put health first. While work is obviously important, the Torah teaches us directly: We must not disregard our connection to our bodies and spirit for its sake. 

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Esti Klein is student at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and is spending her summer interning with the Blue Dove Foundation. Esti enjoys reading and writing fiction and spending time with her adorable puppy, Zuko.

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