Taking Time to Breathe

The world is flipped upside down.
The normal that we once knew does not exist right now.
The virtual world is coming at us at warp speed.

Yet, I wonder…
Do we need to keep doing, as we always have?
Do we need to keep filling our days, as we always have?
What if we made a change?

What would the world look like if we decided to…
breathe a little deeper
cry a little more openly
laugh a lot more
play like kids
create like artists
connect like that is all that really matters

What if we decided to just be?

As a parent and Jewish professional, I am struck by an opportunity that lays at our fingertips. We live in a world that discourages us from taking a break. The 21st century fosters busy-ness and chaos.

Yet, as Jews we are ignoring one of our greatest gifts. We have a built-in break. Every week we are supposed to celebrate Shabbat and cease from work and regular activities. Our focus is supposed to shift from the mundane to the holy. Similarly, every seven years, the Torah calls for Shmita, also known as the sabbatical year. “In the Shmita year, debts are to be forgiven, agricultural lands to lie fallow, private land holdings to become open to the commons, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests to be freely redistributed and accessible to all.” (www.hazon.org)

What if, instead of trying to replicate daily life via zoom, we tried to embrace this time as a forced Shabbat or Shmita? What if we took time to breathe? What if we embraced the openness of our schedules, instead of filling them with endless virtual activities?

As a parent of elementary and middle school children, I understand the need for a schedule and the importance of learning. I am also in awe of my kids’ ability to keep smiling and playing amid this craziness. This quarantine has not been all sunshine and rainbows for us. We had to postpone a major family event and have already made our first trip to the ER. Still, people, especially children, are more resilient than we give them credit for, and this moment in time is an opportunity to embrace and celebrate that resilience.

Every night at dinner, my children and I discuss our blessings, hopes, and struggles. Since the quarantine started, each one of us has independently shared that we are thankful for our newfound time together. Typically, our schedules barely allow us to have dinner together during the week because we are running from one activity to another while I balance their schedules with a full-time job. Now, we are scared, disoriented, going stir-crazy, and so appreciative of this time together.

I wonder what it would look like we took this moment to teach our communities about how to truly celebrate and relish in the joy of Shabbat. Why not teach about the power of blessings? Why not embrace and share the essence of Jewish community? The idea of Shabbat is to take a break from ordinary life and focus on family, community, and spiritual growth. I see that as the gift that we can share with the world right now.

I recognize that my reality is not the same for everyone, but I implore Jewish professionals and educators to consider this narrative. Life is certainly not ordinary right so why try to make it that way. Not all of us want to maintain the status quo. Not all of us want to fill our days with zoom activities. Some of us want to embrace the holy moments and just ignore the mundane. Please help by creating the time and space for that too.

Anonymously submitted by a long-time Jewish educator and mother.