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Putting Rest on the To-Do List

A Teaching by Rabbi Steph Kennedy

July 1, 2024 • 27 Sivan 5784


In our productivity-obsessed culture, it’s challenging to put rest on the “to-do” list. There is a Shabbat teaching that I have held onto since I encountered it at the age of 21. It is from a Christian theologian, and I came across it at a Shabbat dinner during a trip to New Orleans. Harvey Cox teaches that “Shabbat means being fully aware of the apple tree but having no judgments, plans, or prospects for it.” This profoundly shifted my understanding of Shabbat as more than just a time for lounging but as a moment to pause any efforts to change the world and appreciate it as it is.

Shabbat offers a taste of the world in its perfect state. It provides not only rest for our bodies but also for our souls, egos, and desires. Through this rest, we hope to emerge with the energy, space, and clarity to create and act wisely throughout the week. Pausing our efforts to change the world on Shabbat does not mean we ignore injustices or necessary actions during the week. Rather, it allows us to recharge so we can address these challenges with renewed vigor and wisdom.


At Jewish Gateways, we are embracing this philosophy! This summer, both Rabbi Bridget and I are taking 2 to 3 weeks of vacation, and many of our classes, programs, and events are on pause as we take time to rest and prepare for an exciting fall lineup.


By honoring the spirit of Shabbat, we create a space for renewal and perhaps inspiration. We encourage you to do the same. Take this time to connect with your loved ones, reflect, and rejuvenate. Consider reaching out to another family and planning a Shabbat gathering together. Don’t forget to share your experiences and reflections with us as well—we would love to hear how you are finding rest and inspiration.


And stay tuned—we can’t wait to share what’s coming in the fall!

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