Sabbath can be a time for silence. Even the sounds of Sabbath are meant, in their own way, to channel silence. A nigun, the spiritual type of song sung by Hasidim, is fundamentally a wordless, chanted melody. In the place of words, the songs use “nonsense” syllables, such as “biddy-biddy-bom” and “yoi-doi”–a move away from language and an embrace of what lies beyond it.
The Ten Principles
|1. Avoid technology. 2. Connect with loved ones. 3. Nurture your health. 4. Get outside. 5. Avoid commerce. 6. Light candles. 7. Drink wine. 8. Eat bread. 9. Find silence. 10. Give back.|
Aryeh Kaplan, in his book Meditation and the Bible, writes that the biblical prophets would often “engage in external isolation, secluding themselves from the general populace….There they could meditate on God and His works without interruption.”
Kaplan recommends meditation as the ideal way to withdraw from the world–and, in doing so, to understand the world better. He compares an individual’s isolated, silent state in meditation to God’s state before the creation of the universe.
Silence is its own form of rest. When you take a break from talking, you take a break from one of the most creative forms of human activity.
In the creation story in Genesis, God literally speaks the world into existence. On the first day, “God said: Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). On the second day: “God said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters” (1:6). On the third day: “God said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear” (1:9). God doesn’t stop talking until the seventh day rolls around, when God stops both speaking and creating.
In the Sabbath liturgy, we constantly reference the biblical creation story and God’s resting on the seventh day. Finding moments of silence is the ultimate way to evoke the spirit of this divine Sabbath rest.