Monday, January 17, 2011

The Sabbath That Comes Once a Day

My Jewish friends taught me about Shabbat as being the holiday that comes once a week. Lately, I've been thinking about sleep as the sabbath that comes once a day.

What would it mean, to think of our nightly (or daily, depending on work hours) as holy?

I don't know if I appreciated it as much until the hospital days.  The hospital days ... or more precisely, the hospital nights ... were broken into 1 and a half hour increments.  Because of the chemo my daughter received, she had to be pumped full of liquids to protect her kidneys.  One and a half hours. That's how long she could go without the bathroom.  She was only 3, but she refused a diaper. So every one and a half hours, she'd stir, and I'd leap from my cot beside her, and somehow maneuver her and her IV pole into the bathroom.

But I digress.

I still sleep very lightly.  Whether it is because of those 6 months or entering my forties, I can't say.

Sleep ... oh, blessed sleep.  We cuddle down into our blankets, and hopefully, are able to take just a second to feel grateful.  We are safe, we are warm.  Best of all is when we are in our own homes.

Perhaps a spouse or a mate rustles next to us.  A hound dog or a kitty yawns, stretches, and curls closer, feeling utterly safe next to the heat of our body.

A nursing baby sighs, sliding off our breast and nestling close.  Or a young child crawls next to us in the middle of night, "I had a nightmare," she mumbles, before weaving herself under your chin, her knees pressed against your belly, an expanded version of herself as she used to curl in the womb.


If we truly considered it to be holy, a gift from God that comes once a day, how would we treat it?  Would we still push ourselves, doing laundry, watching tv, checking Facebook until, exhausted, we finally succumbed and poured ourselves into bed?

Or would we, instead, treat it as part of the divine hours.  A specific time -- 10:00, 11:00?  Where we began our nighttime discipline:  wash the face, brush the teeth, visit the toilet, say a prayer, close our eyes, join in our nighttime Sabbath?

I have known a time when sleep was a much needed vacation from reality.  Where I could, for a period of time, rest.  Body, mind. and soul.  Rest.

Isn't that what Sabbath means?


plaidshoes said...

I really like this. I had never thought about sleep like that. It really puts it into a new perspective. (I couldn't find a way to contact you via your blog, but thank you for the lovely *thank you* picture of your family - so glad to see everyone doing so well).

Anonymous said...

I like this idea. In my younger years, it was always about how much sleep can you go without to go to another party, do more work, get more done. Then children and sleep disruption, trying to get everyone onto a decent schedule, but still burning the candle short, because after work and spending time with children before they go to bed, then it is time to finish work, get ready for tomorrow. Now as I'm in my 50's, getting enough sleep for my body (at least 7-8) is really important; to take care of myself. Perhaps with the sabbath idea, I'd have done it sooner in my life. Great sermon topic.