Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Nothing replenishes my body and mind like time in the mountains. On a hike with Lisa and friends, I breathe deeply and smell the scents of pine trees and bare earth. As the path dips towards the flowing river, I step into it and feel the brisk cold water run over my bare feet. When the trail ascends higher, we stop to catch our breath in the altitude and eat some energy-rich dark chocolate and almonds. Even a short pause is time enough to look around and find the views that inspire us. We use our phones to capture pictures of the sun cutting through the tall pine and Aspen trees, and we take photos of each other to remember the trek. Talk and laughter accompany us as we make our way to the next fork in the trail. There we decide whether or not to go farther.
On this hike we do go on, and to our delight we happen upon an abandoned rustic farmhouse in the middle of a field of tall grasses. The path to the door is beaten down by many hikers who made their way there before us. To me, being there is like standing in the middle of a painting where only the most perfect colors, materials and textures are used to create a one-of-a-kind pastoral canvas. I take pictures of everything I can and touch with my hands everything that I find. Inside the old farmhouse are rooms that once sheltered a small family. It’s hard to believe that the house could have supported them for long. On our way out, I look back over my shoulder to take one more memory of it with me.
Such pastoral scenes, hikes with friends, and natural beauty are healthy distractions. They remove me momentarily from a crowded and endless schedule, let alone the rage that’s engulfing the world and filling the daily news. Distractions aren’t ploys to escape any of it; but, they do create open spaces for creativity, inspiration and preparation. In Colorado, there are places called “open spaces.” By definition, they’re not landscaped or outlined by anything but nature, itself. Untouched, raw, and growing unbounded, they can be metaphors for times in our life when unbounded open spaces unleash our human potential. Open spaces can be downtime, even bored time. They can stimulate new ways of thinking about old ideas, develop new interest in familiar tasks, and open new pathways to reach fresh solutions. The benefits accrue to everyone.
The privilege to get away, however, doesn’t come to all of us or as often as we need it. When we’re fully engaged in our work and areas of responsibility our stress levels rise and even familiar tasks feel urgent. News of terrorist attacks and deadly gunfire make us especially restless and anxious. Ask yourself what events cause you stress and anxiety. When do you feel helpless and out of control? Do you use memories of people and moments to soothe yourself and refocus your perspective? Can you take time off in order to create open space for creative thinking?
As much as I love the mountains and hikes to open spaces, I can’t get there often enough. So, between trips to Colorado in summertime, I find relief from schedules and daily news when I welcome Shabbat every Friday night. It’s my spiritual “open space” and it’s accompanied by quiet activity, reading, resting, and even feeling a little bored sometimes. One of the joys of Shabbat is that it comes every week. Unrelated to the cycle of the moon or the imposition of calendar events, Shabbat is created by God and made holy by God. We are commanded to keep it. Making Shabbat with others widens our open space to include family and friends. It’s also the perfect time to recall fond memories with them of summertime.
I’m on my way back from Colorado. I’m bringing back pictures and memories, focus and perspective. And, in the midst of what will become crowded schedules and new demands, I’ll look for you. Each week, we’ll enter the open space we call Shabbat, and there find rest and renewal on our search for our greatest human potential.