Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
For the first time in years, my husband and I have chosen to take a staycation. Our parents and siblings live on the East Coast, so we generally spend our vacation time shuttling back and forth between cities in the Northeast, lugging over-packed suitcases on an off planes and in and out of rental cars, toting around tired children, strollers, and car-seats. You get the picture. Although I love the opportunity to see family and friends and feel deeply grateful that I have loved ones to visit, this winter we decided we just couldn’t take another big trip. We needed to stay back and regroup in our own space, in our own home here in Austin, TX.
There’s no school, so the kids can stay up late and sleep in. (And, thankfully, I have two young children who love to sleep in, so that means mom gets to sleep in too.) Although my husband and I are trying to get some things done around the house, nobody is “on the clock,” so to speak. We are enjoying being together and sharing time and space with one another — playing and singing together as a family, socializing with friends, and lingering in each other’s presence. We are not focused on homework, after school activities, work obligations, and what “has to get done,” but instead embracing our essential selves. This week is about appreciating “who we are” and not “what we are doing.” This evening I realized that this staycation feels a lot like Shabbat.
Shabbat happens every week. It isn’t a vacation, because the goal isn’t to escape to another destination. Quite the opposite. It’s a staycation — an opportunity to be present, right here, right now. On Shabbat we have the opportunity to set aside our alarm clocks and our tight schedules, connecting instead with the people in our lives whom we cherish most. It is, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “an island in time” — an opening to reacquaint ourselves with who we truly are, to nourish our minds and our souls.
In just a few hours, the sun will set and Shabbat will be upon us. The term “staycation” is rather new, but the staycation of the Jewish people — aka Shabbat — is over 3,000 years old. There is a reason we’ve kept this tradition around. It works. Our souls need this seventh day of rejuvenation. As January approaches and my family returns to our regular, beloved activities, I am grateful to know that another staycation is always less than a week away.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.