Recently, I heard a talk on stress management where the lecturer, holding a glass of water, asked: “How heavy is this glass of water?” The audience called out answers ranging from eight to 24 ounces.
The lecturer replied, “Actually, from my perspective, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how long I try to hold this glass.
“For example, if I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, I may need to call an ambulance.”
The point he wanted to make was simple: The weight was the same but the longer he held the glass, the heavier it became.
So it goes with life — and the burdens, stresses, disappointments and angst that we each carry within us.
If we carry our burdens all the time, if we never let go of our guilt, shame, regret or sorrow, if we never take a break from the demands of work, family and life, we can become incapacitated by the very act of carrying their psychological weight.
Just as with the glass of water, if we don’t put them down for a while, we may actually make ourselves sick.
The wisdom of Jewish texts and teachings remains relevant today because it speaks to us in the “trenches” of life — where we work, live and muddle through our daily challenges — not just in the synagogue or house of worship.
A great example of this lies in the how Judaism teaches us to be healthier human beings because it requires us to “put down our burdens” once a week.
This letting go that restores our inner balance is called Shabbat.
Whatever troubles we are carrying, whatever work remains undone from the prior week, whatever problems of the heart are unresolved, Shabbat beckons us to “let those burdens go!”
For 25 hours, we are encouraged to put them away and sit back, relax and enjoy the reprieve. Like a mini-vacation of the soul, Shabbat gives us time and space to relax and renew ourselves free of the burdens we carry within us all week long.
Shabbat is intended to be a weekly reminder of how rich our lives can be when we relinquish control over the things we dominate and that dominate us.
It is an invitation to enjoy time with family and friends, to study and pray with the community and, finally, to read the last chapter of the book we put down weeks ago for lack of time.
Shabbat establishes a specific time each week during which we are both entitled and required to stop, reflect and relax rather than to do, change and create.
There have been times in life, especially as I have gotten older, when I have struggled to maintain perspective. The pain and angst I have experienced from living in the trenches of love, loss and life have been overwhelming at times.
But somehow I have found an island of calm in knowing that Shabbat is just a few days away and, with it, the time I need to regain my emotional and spiritual footing in an uncertain, turbulent world.
Even though I know that I will have to pick up my burdens again when Shabbat is over, I am always more refreshed and better able to carry them after having laid them down for a while.
Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News