This week’s Before Shabbat is the last installment of the season. It goes on hiatus for the summer, and back again in September. As for me, I go on hiatus for July in the town of Orleans.
I had a friend who, as a badge of honor, never took a break from his work. Oh, maybe an afternoon here or there. But for the most part he never strayed far from the office.
I admired that dedication, that “duty first” mentality. It looked like the right thing to do. Somehow, the self-sacrifice seemed sanctified.
Only: he wasn’t happy. The world maligned him. His wife didn’t understand him. His kids didn’t respect him. The people at work were idiots. The administration was short-sighted. Yes. He was miserable. And no wonder…
We need time to think, time to replenish our souls with rest and love. Time to be with friends and time to be on our own a bit – a walk, a drive, a swim. All this time I’d admired my buddy and his dogged self-abnegation, until it dawned on me that he was poisoning his soul, choking his neshama to death.
Taking some time doesn’t have to be an elaborate 3-month trip around the world. It can be a weekend, even a day spent in pursuit of something that nourishes your soul. After all, even God takes a day off!
A growing body of scientific evidence explains what many of us have learned from unpleasant experience: Push yourself through too many hours or days of work and your brain starts to push back. Ideas that once flowed easily dry up, and tasks that you should be able to perform quickly become excruciatingly difficult–you need to give your brain, and yourself, some rest.
It would be easy to evaluate current events and then conclude that as long as there is such indiscriminate inequality in the world, no one deserves to take time off. There’s too much work to do. But we do no one much good if our souls are starved for spiritual oxygen. There are no awards for unhappiness, no extra credit for being dour.
“Life is too short” is a common axiom. And it is true. Take some time off this summer. Take time to appreciate your life. Burnish your soul to let the pure, divine spark within you shine brightly.
This world is so in need of light. That’s our task: to light up the world and lead the way.
What are your plans for getting away? For the summer? For a weekend? Let me know. Be healthy and purposeful in your recharging. I hope we all reconvene with strength and fullness of heart and spirit.