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Shabbat: real life in real time

by Nikki Elbaz

What’s so special about Shabbat? Nine times out of ten, you’ll get this answer: life is frenetic; we’re busy, busy, busy. But when you celebrate Shabbat, you take a break. You stop working, shopping, driving, Tweeting. You relax, breathe, enjoy. You experience peace.

But the truth is, that’s not what a real Shabbat looks like. Shabbat is not a serene getaway. It’s not a digital detox either. It’s not even picture-perfect family time.

A real Shabbat is busy, high-energy, downright messy. Lavish meals to prepare and clear up; four prayer services to get to; kids crying over spilled juice. So if you’ve been told that Shabbat is an oasis of calm, a carnival cruise – you’re in for a surprise.

“Wait up”, you’re thinking. “Shabbat is our ‘Day of Rest’. How can it not be restful?”

It can be. But it’s not this Instagram-worthy slow motion video reel either. You know the one: table is beautifully set. Mom and dad bless the calm, smiling children. Glinting conversation, smiles, smiles, smiles. Pan out from that scene and you’ll see dishes in the sink, chocolate on Sophie’s new dress, Noah rolling his eyes, muttering “lamest family ever.”

So, again, what is so special about Shabbat?

When you celebrate Shabbat – when you cease all creative activity – you experience the pace of real, true life. Shabbat is real life. In real time. Not the frenzied, hectic life we usually live; grab the coffee, text the boss, hit the Like button, snatch the keys. But not the peaceful, relaxed life we imagine either; sipping coffee in a fluffy bathrobe, blissful quiet, flipping through a magazine.

There’s no guarantee your kids won’t bicker, your prayers will be meaningful, or you won’t itch to check Instagram or hit up the mall. But one thing you can be sure of: when you celebrate Shabbat, you will experience a day like no other.

You’ll sense a kind of magic that you can’t put into words. You’ll feel an inner thrill knowing you achieved what seemed impossible. You’ll tune in to your self, your community, your God.

Stopping everything might sound impossible, ridiculous, crazy. And it is – all of those things. Shabbat asks you to take a break from your life. Shut off your phone. Stow the car keys. Put away your wallet. It’s just not normal.

But here’s the thing: when you stop creating, you start experiencing. You let go. You pause. And that is where you’ll experience the ‘rest’. You’ll be at rest in your world.

Try it, it’s life-changing.

Nikki Elbaz

Nikki Elbaz is a freelancer coach and conversion copywriter (plainspeak: she helps freelancers and businesses make more money). She writes a lot of essays in her head during 3 am nursing sessions, some of which actually make it onto her computer – and then onto the pages of various publications. Connect with her at

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