Learning to truly rest on Shabbat

My brain is a very active place. It buzzes with ideas, chews on recent events, even occasionally worries about the future. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an introvert, or if everyone’s brain is like a beehive. I’m very happy most days living in my head, but on Shabbat, it can be hard to let my mind rest along with my body. I may be physically resting, but it can be a constant struggle to not fill Shabbat with plans for the following week, details about business ideas, and any number of thoughts that are not in keeping with the whole point of the day, which is to rest and spend time with my Creator. Let’s talk about what we can do to rest our bodies and our minds on Shabbat.

Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay

Be prepared

Part of the reason many of us struggle to put our minds to rest on Shabbat is because we are trying to remember all the things we are supposed to be doing. This is why I am such a strong advocate for using a planner. We need to empty our heads of our to-do list, and then take action to do those things. Preparation day exists to help us get our lists done, as much as possible, so that we can rest on Shabbat.

A set Friday list is a great tool to help you get all the things out of the way in a hopefully orderly fashion, so that you can rest at the end of the day. Knowing that your list is taken care of helps your mind to rest.

Here’s an example of a Friday list.

  • Get all dishes washed.
  • Have food prepared for Shabbat meals. (A standard Shabbat menu really helps with this. For example, we always have cheese, crackers, pickles, fruit, etc. for Shabbat lunch. All I have to do is make sure those items are in stock in my fridge.)
  • Pay upcoming bills. (Big mental issue here! I know because I have forgotten a bill and remembered it lying in bed on Friday night. Check your bills!)
  • Make sure all laundry is at least dried, if not put away.
  • Wrap up jobs like gardening, lawn care, watering plants, etc. before Shabbat. Pick vegetables that would grow too much if left til Sunday. You may be in a position where animal care can be done as well, or at least minimized. For example, we use a feeder in our barn to feed the sheep. Since the feeder slows down how much hay they have access to at a time, we can feed them double on Friday, and it feeds them til Sunday.

Your Friday list may be a bit different, but be sure to sit down and think out your list. What jobs would haunt you if they were forgotten? What jobs can be doubled up so they can be skipped on Shabbat? In your mind, what jobs really need to be done in order for you to rest?

Once you have thought this through, write it down in your planner and use it as a guide each preparation day to help you be truly prepared for Shabbat. Being prepared for Shabbat will help you to rest your mind.

Learn to just be

This is a skill I am still working on. We learn the importance of just being from Mary and Martha.

Now while they were traveling, Yeshua entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. She had a sister called Miriam, who was seated at the Master’s feet, listening to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; so she approached Yeshua and said, “Master, doesn’t it concern you that my sister has left me to serve alone? Then tell her to help me!” But answering her, the Lord said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and bothered about many things; but only one thing is necessary. For Miriam has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

We can learn much from both Mary and Martha. We are told to exercise the Martha persona six days a week, when we are commanded to work six days. (Exodus 20:9) But, on Shabbat, we are to set aside our work and take on the Mary persona. We are to rest from our labors and learn to just “be” at the Master’s feet. How do we do this?

  • Practice unplugging. The constant influx of information and social contact that we have access to with our electronics is the opposite of “being.”
  • Teach yourself to just sit still. I struggle with this, so I take time to sit on my porch and just listen to the birds, look at the sky, and not allow myself to think deep or productive thoughts. It’s a discipline that is helping me learn to just “be.”
  • Listen to music, and I don’t mean just any music. Select songs that help you to focus on your Creator: who He is, and how you can obey and build your relationship with Him. This is a great tool when your mind is humming on Shabbat.
  • Color a picture. The act of coloring is a delightful way to keep your mind in check. I like to combine this activity with being out in nature. The Torah portions coloring books from Torah Sisters are a great fit.
Image by marcieek21 from Pixabay

Plan your time with your Creator

Having at least a rough plan for your Shabbat helps you to set aside the mental cares of the world, and truly enter into the Shabbat rest. I don’t want your plan to just consist of busyness, for that is the opposite of rest. I want you to look forward to Shabbat and the time reconnecting with YHVH.

  • Have a to-study list. My husband will have me add topics to our list. This week we plan to look at salt in Scripture.
  • Set up a Torah time with your family. Even if you meet with others on Shabbat, having a family Torah time is very special. I wrote a whole post about it here.
  • Keep some activities only for Shabbat, such as listening to teachings, coloring with your children, watching a Bible movie, etc. Keep them special and look forward to them.
  • Have special treats for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

Use a journal

This tip is two-fold. We want to rest our minds from stewing on the cares of the world on Shabbat, and focus instead on YHVH and His ways. A journal can help with both.

rest shabbat
Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

First, use a journal sometime on Friday to empty your head. Many people call it a brain dump, and I am a huge supporter. Sit down with your notebook or journal (planner not required for this) and write down everything floating around in your brain. I like to use something simple like a composition notebook. It doesn’t have to be pretty or organized, which is why I just use a notebook. Include anything niggling around in your brain.

For example:

  • make orthodontist appointment
  • figure out how to dehydrate tomatoes
  • why do I feel tired when I wake up?
  • order ink
  • this house feels messy, I need to organize more

Get the idea? Just get all those thoughts down on paper so you don’t have to waste brain power trying to remember them. Then, you can just keep your brain dump as is, or take the actionable items and add them to your planner.

I also recommend that you lay out the following week in your planner on Friday, rather than waiting til Sunday morning. I find that if I don’t plan out the next week before Shabbat, I am trying to do it mentally on Shabbat, and I want to be focusing on Scripture instead. In my planner, I keep all my fixed appointments on the monthly layout. On Fridays, I move those appointments over to the next weekly layout. Then, I can add in meal plans, shopping trips, etc. The point, though, is to do this before Shabbat. I want to go into this special day able to focus on YHVH and truly rest my mind. Knowing that I have planned my next week really helps.

Copy Scripture

The second use for a journal is to copy Scripture, take notes on teachings, journal about my application from a certain passage, etc. I have had people tell me to stop promoting writing Scripture on Shabbat because the Rabbis forbid it, but I’m going to continue to stand behind it. Shabbat is a day to set aside the cares of the world, and spend the day with my Creator. I work hard for six days, and I purposely take the steps I have shared in this post to help me rest my mind from thinking about “all the things.” I copy and write about Scripture on Shabbat to bring my mind into the proper focus, which is on YHVH. Otherwise, I am leaving my mind in a vacuum, and that is not going to end well. I present the following Scripture passages so that you can make up your own mind.

  • Exodus 20:8-11
  • Leviticus 23:3
  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15
  • Nehemiah 10:32
  • Psalm 92
  • Isaiah 56:4-8
  • Isaiah 58:13-14
  • Jeremiah 17:19-27
  • Ezekiel 46:1-3
  • Matthew 12:1-14
  • Mark 3:1-6

These verses, and plenty more I didn’t list, show a pattern of setting aside our work and choosing to keep a sacred appointment with YHVH. I believe this is the spirit and principle of “Remember the Sabbath Day.” I see no command forbidding writing Scripture on Shabbat. I do see the command to set aside work, which for me includes household tasks, cooking, anything related to my business, buying and selling, financial transactions, etc. Then I am to obey the command to focus on YHVH.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

How to rest your mind on Shabbat

Let’s recap, since this post got a little long. Here are some tips to help you rest your mind and truly rest on Shabbat.

  • Make a Friday job list
  • Practice just existing. Sit outside. Learn to turn your mind off by unplugging.
  • Have a plan for activities on Shabbat, such as a Torah time, to-study list, or activities with your kids.
  • Do a brain dump on Friday.
  • Get your next week’s planning done on Friday.
  • Copy Scripture to keep your focus on YHVH.

I hope these tips will help you as you endeavor to truly enter into Shabbat rest, physically and mentally. What tips help you to keep your focus in the right place on Shabbat? What tips from the above list do you think would be most helpful to you?

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