My second Friday in Los Angeles, before my understanding of Sabbath had unfurled its first petals, I was at a conservative synagogue for the intimate evening service that officially welcomes the Sabbath. It was held in a small room adjacent to the main sanctuary; about 15 chairs formed a circle around the perimeter. I was one of the first to arrive and as I waited, I took out my day planner and set it in my lap. I was holding a pen. The rabbi approached. As he knelt in front of me, my mind raced with the possible admonishments I was about to receive. I was dressed modestly, but I was wearing pants. Was it the pants?
“We don’t write on the Sabbath,” he said, his eyes locked on mine.
I looked at my pen like it was a fork I hadn’t realized was so filthy. I let it drop into the gaping mouth of my bag. “Thank you,” I said as if he just saved me from contracting bubonic plague. I had been mulling over how to recognize the Sabbath given that I needed to drive myself to and from the synagogues I was visiting and, as a house guest, I was not in perfect control of my surroundings. The rabbi’s reprimand gave me my answer. I could do this: absolutely no writing. No notes, no computer, no writing utensils of any kind. If I wanted to record events or thoughts from Sabbath, I had to wait until after the sun set on Saturday night. It was a small thing, but it invited the spirit of the Sabbath into my life and, from there, I found it much easier to embrace other aspects of the day.
When I got home from synagogue on Saturday afternoons, I made a concerted effort to relax. At least until sunset, my job was to loll around. At first it was a challenge, but I got the hang of it.
One afternoon when I was engaged in this non-task, my stepmom came into my room. “What are you up to?” she asked. I opened my eyes, realizing I had nodded off while contemplating the row of trees outside the bedroom window. “Very important research,” I said, wiping the drool from my lips.