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  • Writer's pictureReuben Berger

The Healing Power of Rest

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

When I began exploring my Jewish roots, I googled 'How to Observe The Sabbath', recalling that was The Fourth commandment'; The main theme was to unplug from what you normally do the rest of the week, it even said to 'not think your own thoughts' which I thought was quite fascinating.

For Four Sabbaths (traditionally beginning sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday) I rested ~ perhaps more deeply than I had ever before.

After that fourth Sabbath rest at home, I began going to a local, mainly orthodox, synagogue (Jewish house of worship) and quickly discovered that The Sabbath was the busiest and most social day of the entire week with a communal lunch (Kiddush) in the basement banquet hall. Often, I'd be invited to someone's home for another lunch. And so, for a number of years I'd spend a good part of The Sabbath day at the synagogue not even realizing that it wasn't actually truly restful ~ as though I had almost forgotten how wonderful those first four Sabbaths were when I truly rested at home.

And then, one day I was at the cabin up north and as the flames in the wood stove danced , I began reading the various writings about The Sabbath in the Torah (first five books of the Bible); One line practically jumped off the page:

Let every man remain in his place;

let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”

~ Exodus 16:29

After reading that, I decided that on the coming Sabbath I would stay at home and rest.

It felt as though it was the first time in my life that I truly allowed myself to rest and I was somewhat amazed by just how tired I was. It was challenging to let go of all distractions and truly rest. It was like my subconscious was programmed to keep busy so as to distract me from the turbulence within. Being at home and allowing myself to deeply rest seemed to break this old pattern of 'always keeping busy'. When I had been going to the synagogue, since there was quite a lot going on the Sabbath, it kind of fit in well with my subconscious pattern of 'keeping busy'. I began noticing that I had quite a bit more energy for the other six days of the week, especially knowing that come Friday afternoon, I'd be enjoying another true day of rest.

I literally felt as though my mind was healing from this deep rest that I so badly needed.I thought of ways to share these insights with the wider Jewish community because I felt that so many were not experiencing true rest ~ a break from their daily routine. I imagined one day all the synagogues in the world being closed on the Sabbath and open the rest of the week to truly serve the community.

And then, Covid arrived and overnight all the synagogues in the world were closed on The Sabbath ~ perhaps the first time since the inception of the synagogue back in days in Babylon.

I calculated for every seven years of one's life, if one took one day a week to deeply rest they would have the equivalent of one year of rest. I have a sense that much illness and disease is the result of people simply being burnt out, never allowing themselves to truly rest. I had met a woman at a festival last summer who told me that after she quit her government job she literally needed to sleep/rest for close to eight years.

Taking one day a week to truly connect with what is Holy in Life and discover what it means to deeply rest, is perhaps one of the more powerful ways to change your life. It's a great opportunity to reflect on how you have been spending your time while getting clarity on what kind of future you may be dreaming of.

On this day of rest you may want to: Stretch, meditate, pray, do breath work, have lighter meals (ideally prepare them before this period of rest), drink a lot of water, rest, take a hot bath (or a cold one or both), write in a journal, avoid social media, ideally spend this rest day mostly in silence (talking/listening does take a certain amount of energy).

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