Calm Sea

An Oasis in Time

Seven Thoughts for the Seventh Day

 

The guide presented here is a resource for guides to give over the valuable lessons available in Rabbi Benji's book about Shabbat - An Oasis in Time: Seven Thoughts for the Seventh Day.

 

Guide for the Guide

Dear Guide,


This is a guide of suggestions that can help you bring some of the ideas from my book to life through guiding or facilitating with others.


Your role is critical, serving as the glue that brings together the written word with lived experience. While taken alone, An Oasis in Time can serve as a meaningful endeavor, when coupled with conversations and activities it can become so much more.


The suggestions and activities on the following pages are just that – suggestions. Please adapt and add to them. Bring your own resources to complement these or create your own activities that meet the rhythm and requirements of your group.


This guide is divided into nine segments with a set of activities corresponding to each chapter. Each section is divided into four parts which include:


REVIEW: This contains a direct quote from the book An Oasis in Time that will serve as the jumping off point for the reflective questions and activities that follow.


REFLECT: The second part consists of questions that serve to help stimulate further conversation in a variety of settings, such as part of a book club, at a meal, a learning group or other discussion forums.


REVEAL: The third part contains activities to help internalize an idea or provoke further reflection about the given Shabbat related value. These activities are meant specifically for guides to use in an educational setting.


RECONNECT: The fourth section is designed for intergenerational dialogue with prompts to help transmit the Shabbat related idea across the generations. Families come in all shapes and sizes and values can get passed through all family members – parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. Please substitute other names of family members or groups as per your specific context.


Before you set off to convene your group, of course, study the book yourself. Underline sections that speak directly to you and note down the further thoughts that come to your mind, the ideas that you know you would be passionate when discussing. Consider other sections that you might have questions about. Your own relationship with Shabbat and your own understanding of the book is what will help you facilitate the group in a more genuine and engaged way.


When you bring your group together, ask participants to consider the book excerpt first, and then use the suggested activities to amplify the ideas. It sometimes makes sense to ask participants to read a text twice and ask them to explain it in their own words to deepen their understanding. Feel free to use any educational or facilitation techniques.


Please reach out to me @Rabbi Benji to share how you used the book – which of these activities resonated most and what new ones you have dreamed up. This guidebook is the first layer of many inspiring to experience Shabbat in a new way and your personal experience using this guide will help develop and deepen the content further.


Finally, in addition to all those I thanked in the book, I would like to thank Dasee Berkowitz, a tremendous educator, who was instrumental in putting together this guide.


I hope you continue to reflect, reveal and reconnect with all of the ways that Shabbat can anchor and inspire you, and I hope that you are able to help others do the same in their own lives.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dr Benji Levy

 

INTRODUCTION

REVIEW

Play a game of charades with your group to understand what the difference between “active” and “passive” rest is. Divide the group in two:


  • Each team brainstorms 5 activities that connect to “passive rest”

  • They then brainstorm 5 activities that connect to “active rest”

  • Once they have their lists, one person acts out each of these activities and their team members must guess what the activity is.

  • The team that guesses the most number of correct answers wins!

  • Closing chat: Name one “active” rest activity that you want to try to do more of this Shabbat.

 

REFLECT

One of the biblical references to Shabbat reflects the notion of active rest, stating that “God rested and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17). When looked at more carefully, the word “refreshed” in Hebrew is vayinafash which is the reflexive form of the word nefesh or “soul.” Reflecting on the biblical reference with this definition in mind, we see the suggestion that the active rest of Shabbat refreshes the soul.

  • How does the difference between passive rest and active rest play out in your life?

  • What gets in the way of moving from this passive rest toward more active kinds? (Active rest might take more effort to implement.)

  • What is a small step you could imagine taking in that direction for active rest activities in your day-to-day lives? (Such as identifying specific activities that you find refresh you and setting aside specific time to engage with them.)

  • As Shabbat is a big opportunity for active rest, how can you incorporate these active rest activities to your weekend?

 

REVEAL

Play a game of charades with your group to understand what the difference between “active” and “passive” rest is. Divide the group in two:


  • Each team brainstorms 5 activities that connect to “passive rest”

  • They then brainstorm 5 activities that connect to “active rest”

  • Once they have their lists, one person acts out each of these activities and their team members must guess what the activity is.

  • The team that guesses the most number of correct answers wins!

  • Closing chat: Name one “active” rest activity that you want to try to do more of this Shabbat.

 

RECONNECT

How we rest also impacts other members of our families. When we are distracted by screens, we are simply not present with the people who are in the room with us. Emotionally we can be in a different place entirely and this reality can distract from our intentions to spend quality time with those closest to us.


Consider different conversations that can happen between family members on modes of passive rest. Here is one example:


Complete the sentence:

  • “When I chill out at home while scrolling though social media for an hour, I feel…”

  • “When I see (insert specific family member) at home on their phone scrolling through social media, I feel…”

Closing activity: participants are invited to make a commitment with each other to set limits on our most used apps to limit the usage so that we can have time to move away from our devices when we want to reconnect face-to-face.


Additional Links:

Consider using these links as triggers for the “reconnect” activity about how cell phones impact our relationships

  • Cell Phones are destroying our relationships, Simon Sinek

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la1lRcq2-LU

  • Connected but alone? Sherry Turkle

https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_connected_but_alone?language=en#t-230119


Consider using these links as fun song resources for children to get into the Shabbat spirit:

It’s Shabbat! (Shark Song parody)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCwOQnIlnnU

  • The Maccabeats - Cups (D’ror Yikra)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itIG4WU3WUc

 

CHAPTER 1: SHABBAT AND THE SELF

REVIEW

Labor, creativity and innovation are in fact indispensable elements of the destiny of humanity, as mandated in the Garden of Eden. What becomes cursed is not labor but toil. Labor is a human’s natural state: toil is the state we must learn to surpass. When celebrated properly, Shabbat is a master class in the art of cultivating civilization. Rather than renouncing technology altogether, humans must attain some degree of independence from it. In doing so, we create an island in time and in space that redeems us from the vicissitudes of our toil. It is during this one day a week that humans reclaim dignity and reach beyond a basic work ethic to become enlightened to our true purpose on this earth. (Oasis, pp. 11-12)

 

REFLECT

Labor, creativity and innovation are in fact indispensable elements of the destiny of humanity, as mandated in the Garden of Eden. What becomes cursed is not labor but toil. Labor is a human’s natural state: toil is the state we must learn to surpass. When celebrated properly, Shabbat is a master class in the art of cultivating civilization. Rather than renouncing technology altogether, humans must attain some degree of independence from it. In doing so, we create an island in time and in space that redeems us from the vicissitudes of our toil. It is during this one day a week that humans reclaim dignity and reach beyond a basic work ethic to become enlightened to our true purpose on this earth. (Oasis, pp. 11-12)

Israeli philosopher, Dr. Micha Goodman, said that while technology gives us something fast (connection to ideas and others, information at the ready) it takes something from us that is slow (our ability to concentrate or stay in meaningful conversations for a long time.)

  • On a scale of 1-10 how independent do you feel from technology?

  • Imagine a day when you could turn off all devices and not respond to email, texts and messages, how would you feel? (anxious/ bored/ calm/ other?)

  • In the time that you are not on your devices what would you choose to do?

  • Do you think you have a worse attention span than your parents and grandparents? How long a movie can you sit through? How much quicker do you get bored in conversations?

 

REVEAL

Barometer Game of “Take a Stand!”

  • Read the following set of statements inspired by this first chapter of the book.

  • Ask participants to stand at one end of the room to signal “I agree” and to stand at the other end of the room to signal “I disagree.” These are extreme statements and so participants will likely stand somewhere in the room that reflects the gradient between of which they agree or disagree with the idea.

  • After each question, ask a couple of participants to volunteer why they chose to stand where they did.

  • Start with simple, ice-breaker questions and move to ones that are more closely related to the value of taking a break from the constant demands of every-day life, and slowing down on Shabbat.


  • I like sweet popcorn over salty.

  • I am a night owl, not an early riser.

  • I think technology is essentially a good thing.

  • I think more responsibility means less freedom.

  • I think that more freedom means less responsibility. I think that rules always create clear boundaries and can make you feel free.

  • My day-to-day routine reflects my purpose in life.

  • When I am on vacation, I appreciate who I am more.

  • The more I have, the happier I am.

  • I want to have less so I can experience being more.


After you finish the game, ask participants to share what they notice about the power of boundaries, and how it relates to their work/school/ general life and freedom. They can share about the effect of personal boundaries in their own lives, as well as boundaries specific to their families, society, and other spheres in which they interact.


As a closing circle, ask everyone to describe their “perfect” toil free day.


Consider making a commitment over the next 3-4 weeks to take a trial conscious “sabbatical” from your devices on Shabbat and do something else that is meaningful to you instead.

 

RECONNECT

Oftentimes people talk about what they want to be when they grow up. Some feel that when they find the right job they have fulfilled their purpose. Shabbat gives us time to pause and consider our lives, not just by what we do but by who we are and what we want to become. With that as a framework have a conversation with your child about the idea of purpose. The goal of this exercise is for parents and children to widen the concept of purpose to mean not only what we do but who we become – what qualities that are uniquely us do we ultimately want to share with others?


Parent shares...

  • Share a dream of who you wanted to become when you grew up? What kind of qualities did you imagine having?

  • Who did you look to for inspiration? Share a story about how they inspired you.


Child shares...

  • Talk, draw, act or dance (depending on age of the child) what you dream for yourself when you grow up. This might start with completing the sentence “When I grow up I want to …” What kind of jobs do you want to have?

  • Talk, draw, act or dance what kind of qualities you want to develop, what kind of person do you want to become when you grow up? What kind of qualities or traits do you want to possess?


Close with blessing the children

Blessing someone else is future oriented. When we bless a child, we are sharing our vision for them – what unique qualities we see in them which we want to grow and develop. It is also a part of the Friday night Shabbat ritual. Close with articulating one or more hopes you have for your child and blessing them.



Additional Links:

Trigger:

“Purpose” from the Avenue Q, the Broadway musical from 2008 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5glOLjR7VK4.

Consider playing this song as a trigger for the “reconnect” activity that talks about purpose.


“How To” exercise:

How to Bless your Children

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/blessing-the-children/.

Consider learning how to bless your child with the traditional Shabbat blessing in the “reconnect” activity.

 

CHAPTER 2: SHABBAT AND THE SOUL

REVIEW

… in the book of Exodus, Shabbat is portrayed as the climax of creation, the day upon which God ceased frenetic activities and enjoyed a well-earned day of rest. Following God’s example, Shabbat is described as a weekly reenactment of this rest. We lay down our tools, turn off our devices, and tend to matters loftier than mere physical advancement. The biblical Sabbath is a day of truce, when we are forbidden from planting, reaping, sowing... or otherwise interfering with the natural order. So too we cease our war against nature... We appreciate and contemplate our place within the intricate cosmic order. Every week, we relate to nature not as an inexhaustible resource for personal and collective enrichment, but rather as a delicate system that reflects the beneficence of an underlying spiritual equilibrium. We engage in the most basic of natural pleasures: eating, drinking, singing, conversing, resting, and learning. We take time to appreciate the quiet wonder of our world, thereby creating space to allow its humming spiritual beauty to enter into our lives. (Oasis, pp. 19-20)

 

REFLECT

Let’s get tuned into the “humming spiritual beauty” of the natural world. Through the Shabbat celebration, we can create pockets of silence in our week to help us become aware of the natural world which we shouldn’t simply “pass by” to get to our next destination.

  • Read the passage through twice (this can be a good technique to really hear the words)

  • Provide a list of words from the text and ask participants to find one that they connect to. It might be:

    • Beauty, nature, spiritual, cosmic, quiet, wonder, or any other that comes to them from the passage.

  • How does the word relate specifically to them?

  • Now ask the participants to head outside to a natural area (no matter how warm or cold it is).

  • Have them keep the word in their mind’s eye for a 10-15 minute nature walk.


The rules are:

  • Walk silently (no talking or conversing with anyone else).

  • Notice 7 beautiful things (or things that peaked their sense of wonder) on the walk.


Ask them to come back and share what they noticed that was either beautiful or filled them with wonder (the more detailed the observation, the better).

 

REVEAL

Sometimes we understand “ceasing our war with nature” by communing with nature, and even a return to the farming life (planting, reaping, sowing.) Shabbat teaches us something more – that to completely appreciate our relationship with the natural world, we shouldn’t interfere with it at all, for one day a week.

  • Share a time when you stood “in awe” of the natural world.

  • Now share a time when you stood “in awe” of the natural world in an urban setting. 

  • How might you make a regular practice of appreciating the “quiet wonder of our world”?

 

REVEAL

Author Lisa Miller observes that young children “don’t have to learn the ‘how’ or the ‘what’ of spiritual engagement. Bird and flower, puddle and breeze, snowflake or garden slug: all of nature speaks to them and they respond… Spirituality is the language of these moments, the transcendent experience of nourishing connection.” Lisa Miller, The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving (New York: Picador) 2015, p. 26.


Create an opportunity to explore the outdoors by creating a nature scavenger hunt. You can do this in any way you like – but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Have them identify four parts of nature that they love by color (two items that are blue, three items that are green, one item that is multi-colored). Once they have found the items on their list, ask them to share what they love about them.

  • Select the parts of nature by texture (hard, soft, rough, squishy). Once they present their items, have them share what they love about them.


When you gather everyone back together, share what poet Mary Oliver famously wrote about the instructions for living a life, specifically: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” And commend your children for doing just that! Close your experience by choosing one element of nature together that you will always double your efforts to absorb and appreciate whenever you encounter it. This allows you to appreciate the intricate beauty of the natural world as a family, just as Shabbat is the perfect opportunity for families, void of distractions, to reconnect with themselves and with the natural world.


Additional Links:

Follow up children’s activity:

Sunday Scaries, Walking Meditation (for children)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwbRERIzt6c

If your children are open to being out in nature, introduce them to this “walking meditation”. It will help them appreciate the natural world when they are on their own – in the park, or walking to school.

 

CHAPTER 3: SHABBAT AND THE OTHER

REVIEW

On Shabbat, all human hierarchical interests are declared illegitimate. Nobody is allowed to enrich themselves, promote their own social status, or utilize other human beings (or even animals, tools or machinery) to advance their own particular ends. People are enjoined to return to the sanctum sanctorum of their own homes, secure in the knowledge that the most important goods of life “shall not be found in the field.” God declares that on His day, He wishes to pause competition and advancement, and promote free worship for free individuals. Shabbat is the day where we leave behind all forms of rigid hierarchy in our own lives and replace them with the largest, flattest, and most intensely egalitarian network that has ever been discovered by humankind: our radical equality before the majesty of God.  (Oasis, 26-27)

 

REFLECT

Life is often moving fast, leaving so many of us constantly rushing. As Lori Goldberg says “at the speed of want”. (Lori Goldberg, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, [New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019], 258.) Shabbat serves as a corrective, a time when, “human hierarchical interests are declared illegitimate.” Shabbat as an institution transcends many of the regular demarcations of private social and corporate circles such as professional status or financial situation. What matters is that we are a part of something broader, equally joining together in the day of rest. While different to Shabbat, we can get a glimpse of democratized spaces through other institutions like a large public park. Here you will find a range of people, regardless of creed, color, or culture, all with equal access to this space. Shabbat, in a sense, is the public park of time.

  • What is gained by having a hierarchical relationship with others? And what is lost?

  • Would it be ideal for us to have a less hierarchical way of relating to one another in favor of a more “networked” one on Shabbat and maybe even beyond Shabbat?

 

REVEAL

Human beings love categories. We categorize people into groups to make sense of the world. Taken to an extreme, categorizing people can create distance between us all and may harm the sense of mutual responsibility and compassion for every human life created in God’s image. Try this exercise to challenge the way we instinctively categorize others who are close or distant from us into groups. Each person should do this privately and reflect together.


Draw three circles.

  • In the inner circle write the names of those who are closest to you (friends, relatives, family members). What words come to mind when you think about the nature of your relationship with them (e.g. genuine, loving, curious, compassionate, giving)? Write down these words.

  • In the circle next level out, write the names of those who are on your outer circle. Do the same exercise, what words come to mind? Write them down.

  • Now, label the third circle distant acquaintances and strangers (e.g. a teacher from your school that you know of but have never spoken to, a worker at the supermarket that you just know by face.) Repeat the exercise.

  • Now, look at your three circles – what do you notice?

    • It might be that the farther out you go in your circles, the less compassionate you are likely to be.

  • Now, look at the circles again. Move one person from the third circle to the second circle. And if you are comfortable with it, from the second circle to your inner circle.

    • Reflect on how you feel bringing them closer into your “inner circle.”

Certain hierarchies such as status and wealth should not always reign supreme, while others systems such as family or values such as respect do, and therefore this exercise was just that – an exercise. How did this exercise help you practice relating to everyone in your orbit in a way that reflected how they were created in the image of God?

 

RECONNECT

Shabbat can be a day to rest from the advancement that our hierarchical relationships invite – whether it is to impress a teacher, a parent, or a boss. Shabbat is a day when all of us – parents and children alike, are each valued as a human being not a human doing or a human accomplishing. This is not only true for everyone in the family, but for those we interact with as well. How can we cultivate our ability to value and appreciate everyone we meet, not because of what they can give us but because of who they are?


Try this experiment with you family.

  • Have them notice how you speak to people in your “outer circle” – those that pass by, perform certain services that do not directly impact us then and there or neighbors. Maybe it’s someone who is begging for money that you pass on the street. Do you treat them with dignity and respect?

  • Suggest that we remind one another when we get off track.

  • At the same time as Shabbat having this equalizing effect, for many people, a difficult home life can be amplified on a Shabbat spent at home alone or with one’s family. Perhaps you and your family could consider assisting the process of Shabbat by inviting someone around for a meal who you think might really appreciate it?


Additional Links:

Triggers:

People Walk Past Loved Ones Disguised as Homeless on the Street, Social Experiment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bel3vITdnGE

Consider watching this social experiment about the invisibility of homelessness as a trigger to the “reconnect” activity.


“All that we share”, social experiment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD8tjhVO1Tc

Consider watching this social experiment about the downside of putting people in boxes as a trigger for the “reflect” activity.

 

CHAPTER 4: SHABBAT AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

REVIEW

The Bible, while encouraging assiduous labor and the accumulation of wealth, nevertheless instills within Jewish society a mechanism by which each citizen is periodically reminded of the transience for their ownership over property. Every week, we are forced to confront the reality that everything we imagine to be under our governance, including our workers and domestic animals, does not, in fact, belong to us in any meaningful sense. We cannot work, manipulate, benefit from, or demonstrate any other manner of ownership over these dependents. Imbued within the Jewish calendar is a weekly reminder that no matter how much material capital we accrue, there is a higher reality that encompasses all of God’s creatures, a reality where wealth, rank, and status are declared irrelevant. (Oasis, 32-33)


Consider the text:

“Formerly a person who did not work was considered useless; what we need now is a purposeful uselessness, an activity (or non-activity!) which is important in that it becomes an essential protest against that basic unrest which comes from competition without end.”

 

REFLECT

There are so many ways in which we may feel some people are more worthy than others – based on their rank, status or wealth. The quote above reminds us of another famous saying by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

  • How might Shabbat be an institution that reminds us of intrinsic worth?

  • How might you redefine what worth and productivity look like, as Plaut encourages?

  • How might you put Rabbi Heschel’s perspective into effect?

 

REVEAL

Debate!   

Below is a list of quotes, each one has a value proposition. Ask each participant to read through the quotes and choose one to debate. Find someone who will voice the arguments on the other side.

  • “People should be allowed to get ahead and become wealthy without interference from the government.”

  • “It is extremely important to close the gap between the rich and poor in society.”

  • “Helping others is optional.”

  • “I value people more who ‘have it together’ – good looking, wealthy, and can help me get places.”

  • “There are some things, like poverty, that I didn’t cause and am not responsible for.”

End the activity by asking them to think about which argument is most relevant in the realm of Shabbat celebration.

 

CHAPTER 4: SHABBAT AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

RECONNECT

“That’s not right!”


There are times when our family members seem insensitive to others, like they are only looking out for themselves. Other times they notice that we are insensitive to others – people or animals, sometimes because we are in too much of a rush to stop and attend to the needs we see before us.


Create a big board at home where each family member can note down anonymously when they feel another family member was insensitive, to remind them to slow down and pay attention when they are not compassionate to others.

  • Next time you find yourself in one of those situations – notice it.

  • Keep up posting the notes on the board for each other for the duration of the week.

  • Discover and uncover the values that you are offering one another (that all human life / animal life has value.)


Additional Links:

Additional Song:


There’s a Light in You - Bill Harley

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCLWM6PKbM8

Consider using these contemporary songs to illustrate the concept of “In God’s Image” as a part of the “reconnect” activity.

 

CHAPTER 5: SHABBAT AND OUR HUMANITY

REVIEW

... constraining the obsessive pursuit of personal success in a manner that is productive and vivifying should be a priority for all who desire to rise above common distractions and pursue a truly edified life. Across the globe, millions of hardworking Jews set down their work tools on Friday evening and embark upon a full day of mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual rejuvenation. In the process they rediscover some astonishing things. They rediscover - contrary to stoked egos - that the furious-paced worlds of business, media, and news cycles manage perfectly well without them. They rediscover the manifold benefits of long hours of peace and tranquility. They rediscover the delights of spending significant time with family who do not always receive enough attention during the week. They rediscover the pleasures of worshipping with friends and strangers in the synagogue, of fine dining, of extended face-to-face human contact, and of learning words of wisdom. Most importantly, they entrenched in their mind the rarely acknowledged fact that there are things in life that matter far more than our hedonistic desires would like us to acknowledge. There are things of genuine, irreducible, irreplaceable, transcendental importance. Can those who ignore such truths truly live a meaningful life? (Oasis,42 )


The Sabbath Manifesto project has 10 principles of Shabbat:


1. Avoid Tech

2. Connect w/ Loved Ones

3. Nurture Health

4. Get Outside

5. Avoid Commerce

6. Light Candles

7. Drink Wine

8. Eat Bread

9. Find Silence

10. Give Back

 

REFLECT

While traditional Jews are guided by abstaining from 39 creative categories of work known as melakhot, to create a boundary around Shabbat and keep out the “distractions” from observing Shabbat fully, the second text comes from the Sabbath Manifesto, a document written by Reboot, which includes both what to do and not do to invite a Shabbat consciousness into your life (no matter what your level of observance). Both the text from “An Oasis in Time” and “The Sabbath Manifesto” list reflects a slightly different set of activities that can lead to a meaningful life.

  • Which examples of a meaningful life from this portion of “An Oasis in Time” resonated with you and why?

  • Which examples of a meaningful life from “The Sabbath Manifesto” list resonated with you and why?

  • What would you add to “The Sabbath Manifesto” list?

  • How might you consider taking one of these traditional and/or contemporary practices from the list to enhance your experience of Shabbat into the weeks ahead?

 

REVEAL

Shabbat Challenge!

  • Take 25 hours from sunset on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night to tread slowly (Everyone in the group can decide what that means for them.) It may be – to turn off your phones for that time, or to walk or eat more slowly for that whole period of time. It might mean really listening to what another person says without automatically deciding how you are going to respond to them.

  • Report back to the group on Saturday night. How did it go for you?

  • Is there anything you want to practice on Shabbat in the coming weeks?

 

RECONNECT

Enhance your Friday night dinner table conversation this week.

  • Write down a few conversation prompts on a piece of paper and put them in a jar.

  • At dinner on Friday night, pass around the jar and ask everyone to take out a piece of paper.

  • Have them answer the prompts.

Prompts may include:

  • Share something that happened this week that was important to you.

  • Share an amusing story that took place during the week.

  • Share a family memory that will make at least one person around the table smile.

  • Talk about a memory from a grandparent (living or deceased).

  • Share something you would like to do together as a family.


Additional Links:

Resources:

  • Unplugged challenge:

http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/

  • Simon Jacobson, Meaningful Life Center

https://www.meaningfullife.com/category/personal/mission-purpose-life/

Consider using these resources when your participants want to delve deeper into the Sabbath Manifesto mentioned in the “review” activity. The second link is a general resource for delving deeper into the concept of exploring meaning in one’s life.

 

CHAPTER 6: SHABBAT AND THE JEWISH REVOLUTION

REVIEW

Space is particularistic. Time, on the other hand, is universal…The association of God with time removes Him from the manipulations of other human beings who could claim ownership of specific holy objects or places. He is above spatial concerns; He is above all the minutiae of geopolitical squabbles and petty confrontations relating to control of space. Since all living beings have equal access to the realm of time, it follows that all may consider themselves as having equal access to the Divine Presence that animates it. (Oasis, 47)

 

REFLECT

Our connection to Shabbat is an affirmation that we have access to the Divine presence in time. The dimension of time exists beyond every person on the planet, yet at the same time everyone has equal access, the same 24 hours in a day. A strong sense of time can create a greater awareness of our relationship to God who is available to all of us.

  • What are the implications that “all may consider themselves as having equal access to the Divine Presence?”

  • How would that affect the way that we approach disagreements with others in our immediate circles?

  • How would consciousness that all have equal access to the Divine impact how we view more political, ethnic or religious groups who claim that God is on their side?

  • What role does compassion, empathy and understanding play when viewing individuals or groups?

  • How does the Biblical concept that all humanity is created b’tzelem Elokim – in the image of God – relate to all people having access to the Divine? Why is it so much harder to harm people in person than over whatsapp?

 

REVEAL

Become attuned to the Divine dwelling in time. Ask someone in the group who has had experience with meditative practice to lead this meditation exercise:

  • Ask everyone in the group to find a comfortable spot to sit.

  • Lead a guided meditation

  • Ask them to take a few deep and cleansing breaths.

  • Now ask them to think of a time they felt a sense of connection to something greater than themselves (it could be nature, beauty, love, mystery or the Divine.)

  • Bring them out of the meditation. Now ask them to write a reflection.

    • What conditions were necessary to help them experience that connection?

    • What was taken away?

    • What is one step they could take to enable more of that connection?

  • How did it feel for them?

 

RECONNECT

Sometimes children have an easier time accessing God’s presence than adults do. Their inborn spiritual capacity is fully formed at a young age and can dull as age, cynicism and competition of more “useful” capacities (like math skills or reading) take center stage. Creating an opportunity to share ideas about what God means to you may produce surprising results.

  • Think about a time when you felt God’s presence.

  • If you never have, do you think it’s possible you ever could?

  • Ask your family members that question.

  • What did it feel like?

  • What were the circumstances that enabled you to experience God’s presence?

(Some might say quiet, less distractions.)

  • How can you quiet the distractions and open yourself to experiencing God’s presence more?


Additional Links:

Resource:

Resting in the Sea of Presence, with Tara Brach

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZPgWSyYOlY

For those who want to go deeper into a meditative practice, consider this online meditation from the renowned author and proponent of meditation, Tara Brach. It can be used as an additional resource for the “reflect” activity.

 

CHAPTER 7: SHABBAT AND THE MESSIAH

REVIEW

Shabbat is a day where we are commanded to create for ourselves a brief immersive preview of a messianic future by stopping all toil and focusing on the loftiest elements of human existence. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks states, “The Shabbat is not simply a day of rest. It is an anticipation of ‘the end of history’, the Messianic Age. On it, we recover the lost harmonies of the Garden of Eden.” (Oasis, 53)

 

REFLECT

Each week Shabbat celebration gives us a taste of a messianic time on two levels – a natural level, through human work and striving, and a supernatural level, through allowing God’s presence into our lives. It takes meticulous human effort to create a “Shabbat experience that serves as a microcosm of a fairer, simpler, loftier… world” (Oasis, 55) and for Shabbat to serve as “a day in which we reach upwards and invite the Divine spark into our lives.” (Oasis, 56).


While some may feel connected to a spiritual side in which we have a relationship with the Divine, for others, it is more complicated. Take some time to consider what God means to you?


Complete the sentences:

  • When I think of the word “God” what comes to mind is…

  • When I think about connecting the concept of God in my own life, what comes to mind is…

  • A time when I felt the divine presence in my life was…

  • What comes to mind when I think about how to invite in the Divine Presence into my life is...

 

REVEAL

Shabbat is a day when we are meant to rediscover the harmony that was once felt at the Garden of Eden. How can we experience this when we still very much live in our day to day reality?

  • Read this line that one says as a part of birkat ha-mazon, the blessing after the meal: “May it be God’s will to grant us relief from all care, sorrow and grief on our day of rest.”

  • Do you try and wrap up all of your concerns (work, personal, etc) by the end of the week?

  • Now consider one “care” or “sorrow” that you carry with you. How would relieving yourself of it help you feel more open to experience your life differently (a step closer to an ideal?)

  • Make a practice. Choose a day that you say goodbye to a care or worry or concern that emerges. Put it on the side and tell it that you will return to it only at the end of the day.

 

RECONNECT

In a family setting, we share in moments of celebration, happiness, and harmony together. So let’s reflect on those moments!

  • Think about a joyous memory experienced together as a family. Have your child think of one as well.

  • Ask your family member to reflect on their experience and share their memories. It could be through showing pictures, or videos. Which specific moments and aspects would they like to recreate?

  • Share your own experience from a happy family memory, as a story, or through pictures and videos. Which aspect would you like to recreate?

  • Discuss whether these moments are a taste of the bliss that can give us a sense of the better time we strive towards in humanity.



Additional Links:

Inspiring songs:

Koololum - One Day Matisyahu

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqvKDCP5-xE

Consider using this song to set inductions (set the mood!) for the “reflect” or “reconnect” activities.

 

CONCLUSION: THE INVENTION OF EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION

REVIEW

Shabbat, an institution with several millennia of wisdom and experience behind it, is simply unparalleled in its ability to cultivate and nurture a wide array of elements that are essential to the multifaceted experience that is the human condition. When preserved and protected, Shabbat constitutes the vehicle through which transformative waves of meaning are transmitted from the inner core of our souls, to our daily lives, to our families and communities, and - finally - to humanity as a whole. (Oasis, 59)

 

REFLECT, REVEAL, RECONNECT

Design your own Reflect, Reveal, and Reconnect activities over the process of this journey or revisit your favorite that you believe deserves extra attention from this vantage point.

A final thought…

Experiential education presumes that one learns through immersive experiences. It also invites the possibility of transforming thoughts into practical steps for the life of a learner.

  • Which aspects of Shabbat lend themselves to experiential education?

  • How might immersing yourself in the Shabbat experience look in your life – at home, work/school, or in the community?

  • Take a first step to immerse yourself in one of the many ways you can celebrate Shabbat next week!

 

Thank you for bringing greater depth to an Oasis in Time for the people around you. Along the way I hope that the framework of Shabbat will continue to provoke thoughts, invite reflection and inspire action to bring the revolutionary concept of Shabbat into the minds and hearts of those you work, learn, and live with.

Shabbat shalom!