One of the most important aspects of Shabbat for me is the intentional tidying up, physically and mentally, that occurs on Friday afternoons. This means cleaning, organizing, and mentally ‘shelving’ all the ongoing projects, worries, and responsibilities that have been accumulating over the last six days. It is a weekly gift of one day for whatever it is that you feel you most need (often including a lot of R&R). In a somewhat amusing turn, many in the less affiliated Jewish world and many outside of the Jewish world altogether now see the value in having 24 hours in which no technology is to be turned on, so that this generation of ADD, gadget-crazed Westerners can reconnect with our families and friends — without a screen mediating the conversation — at least once a week.
For all of those reasons and more, I value Shabbat. I value it so much, in fact, that I wonder whether it might be fruitful to conceive of each and every night as a mini-Shabbat. How often do we stay up late, unable to fall asleep, because we are so engaged in imagining how the latest report should be tweaked, or how our partner or family member created tension in an otherwise loving relationship? Just as Shabbat is our weekly battery recharge, so too each night we get a chance to recharge and face the challenges and opportunities of the next day. Making the most of that time, though, requires letting go of whatever issues need to be dealt with when the alarm goes off in the morning.
I am no expert in creating Jewish ritual, but I think that mining the Jewish tradition for language and an intention to bring with us as we prepare to unwind (and unplug) each night — with explicit mention of the ways in which it is like a mini-Shabbat — could be extremely beneficial.
The prayer that is traditionally said before going to sleep — קריאת שמע שעל המטה (The recitation of the Shma in bed) — does cover one aspect of this need. That ‘service’ opens with a prayer that asks forgiveness for any interpersonal wrong committed during the day, and the hope that nothing bad will befall others on one’s account. I think that this framework ought to be worked with, combining language that speaks of Shabbat as a rest from the worries of the week, and maybe even a mention of the uniquely stressful 24-hour work/news cycle in which we live, and the demands that makes on our well-being.
If anyone knows of efforts made along these lines, or of anyone who has drawn the connection between Shabbat as a Day of Rest and each evening as a mini-Shabbat, please share in the comments.