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What is Shabbos?

What is Shabbos and how are Shabbos and peace connected?  The terms Shabbos and Shabbat are used interchangeably. Each week, we celebrate the holy day of Shabbos, as a commemoration of the day G-d rested from creating the world. The celebration of Shabbos is a cornerstone in the teachings of Judaism and an occasion which must be treated with dignity.

From lighting the candles to partaking in the festive meal, Shabbos is truly a time to practice mindfulness and cultivate peace of mind. The Sages tell us that an absence of light on Shabbos would mar the peace (Talmud, Shabbat 25b). Renowned Torah commentator Rashi teaches us that an absence of light on any given day would disturb the peace. “…without light, there can be no peace because we will constantly stumble and be compelled to eat in the dark.” (Talmud, Shabbat 25b)

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen tells us that the Hebrew word for peace is shalom. The root word of shalom is shlamut, which means complete. Peace means we are totally integrated. When we are at peace with our fellows, we relate to them in the same way cells and limbs in the human body relate to one another: in perfect harmony. All elements of the human organism compose one totality. We must learn to channel our material nature, as it is known that two physical beings cannot occupy the same space at any given time.

How can we achieve perfect peace? We can do so when we find a state of tranquility. Only then can we be free of the anxiety, greed, and self-centeredness that can destroy tranquility. Perfect peace also requires the prerequisite of light. The Talmud refers to light as shalom because when we achieve a state of peace, only then can we intellectually differentiate and perceive the good qualities and uniqueness of those around us. To treasure our fellow’s differences is true peace.

What is Shabbos and Positive Psychology

Not only do we find peace when we appreciate differences but we also begin to find peace when we are happy with ourselves, as Positive Psychology author Karen Henry teaches us. Achieving peace for some of us can be elusive. The more we get caught up in cultivating an image of what society dictates we should look like, we become less conscious and less aware of our own thoughts. This is because we distance ourselves from achieving what is deemed as true peace as we look for fulfilment from causes outside ourselves.

We can also cultivate peace by practicing mindfulness. Author, researcher, and artist Ellen Langer describes the difference between mindfulness and mindlessness as either being fully engaged in the moment, paying attention to context or being on auto-pilot, allowing our behavior and routine to be governed with little to no attention to subtle changes. On Shabbat, we have the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. We can learn to savor every moment of Shabbat, from the blessings of Kiddush to the festive meals and time spent with our family. We can learn to become fully present in the moment and feel the sanctity of the holy Shabbat and the peace it brings.

What is Shabbos? to Jewish Positive Psychology
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