Practical Judaism – Chayei Sarah

“And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.”
– Genesis 24:63

Welcome to the new season of the ‘Raising Holy Sparks’ podcast. This year, we will be focusing on Jewish concepts and will be experimenting with ways to take them out of the theoretical and turn them into the practical.

In this week’s Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, we meet Isaac for the very first time since he was nearly sacrificed by his father, Abraham, two chapters earlier.

When we meet Isaac in his state of PTSD, we find him out in the field meditating before the sun is ready to set. According to the Talmud, this is the origin of the afternoon prayer service.

Isaac is no longer content to trust his mental (let alone physical) health to other people. Instead, he takes his fate, happiness, and general well being into his own hands (and God’s), and sets out to be alone in a field to meditate and center himself.

While we may not find ourselves in the middle of a field during our work week, the legacy of afternoon prayer and Isaac taking time for himself is a reminder to the rest of us of the importance of taking time for ourselves.

But making time for ourselves does not happen magically. In Hebrew, something that is specially set aside and not to be disturbed is called Kadosh – sacred. Our “me time” must become sacred, we cannot let emails, favors to others, or any other intrusions interfere with our “me time”. In the same way we would not allow others to disturb us during an important work call, we have to respect the boundaries of our “current self” for the sake of our “future self”.

Some tips (from the Harvard Business Review, April 2021)

Make Time for “Me Time”

1) Define What You Need

When it comes to health and happiness, different people have different needs. But there are some universal truths. We all need the basics of sleep, physical movement, and sufficient food. And to thrive, most require quality time with people, time in nature, time for spiritual connection, and time doing something that brings joy. Take a moment to define what you need and what you want.

2) Determine What You Can Do

At certain stages of your life — when work is particularly busy, you’re managing kids in remote schooling, or you’re going through a big change like a move — you may not be able to do all the self-care you would prefer. But you can still do something.

3) Set the Time

If you feel as though there is always more you could be doing, you’ll need to consciously set aside time for self-care. In doing so, you will clearly give yourself permission that this is the most important and appropriate thing to do now. Scheduling helps you to see where self-care fits into your schedule, and how other essential activities have their places around it.

4) Be Clear with Yourself/Others

To make this happen, you’ll need to have resolved that your self-care time is sacred and that you’re going to follow through on it. That means eliminating hurdles and putting in items that reenforce positive behaviors.

Set boundaries at work and at home.

It’s your time, take it seriously!

Intentional action (kavanah) for this week:
Reflect on something that you could use more of and be sure to sprinkle it into your schedule in the week ahead.

See you next time!

Thanks for listening and looking forward to being on this journey through the books of the Torah with you!

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