Serious about Shabbat

In Jerusalem, we were able to experience Shabbat – the Jewish Sabbath – which starts on Fridays at sundown and lasts until Saturday evening, when it is dark and three stars are in the sky.Practically, this means the majority of shops and restaurants are closed. We experienced first-hand how the markets on a Friday afternoon get very busy, with shoppers preparing ahead of their time of rest. There is no public transport during the Shabbat either; we had the uncomfortable experience of attempting to enter the Old City through the Damascus Gate at the precise time 99% of the population were trying to exit to catch the last lot of public transport home – never have we felt more like we’re going against the flow than this!Later on Friday – before the official start of Shabbat – we had the privilege of spending the early evening wandering through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City with a Jewish guide; it was an incredibly memorable experience. In preparation for their day of rest, devout Jews take the Shabbat incredibly seriously. Their commitment to what they believed was tangible.

The Western Wall – which Jews consider to be the most significant site in Judaism, since they believe it represents the last remaining pieces of the Great Temple – was a place of immense joy, as people sang and danced, and gathered to pray before the start of Shabbat. Phil and I both had the privilege of praying at the Wall; Phil at the men’s half, and me in the women’s.

As I sat at the Western Wall, I considered areas where I am seeking for God’s will to be done, and took time to contemplate and reflect. Whether you agree with the measures Jews go to during and in preparation for Shabbat, or not, the whole experience made me question whether I really take the Sabbath seriously enough – do I take time to rest each week?It is worth considering what rest means for us as unique individuals – what does it look like? What does it include doing? What does it not include doing? What can we practically do to ensure we take a day to rest each week, and when we do, to do this well?

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