The Harvard Crimson

In the beginning, the story goes, God created the heavens and the earth. God made day and night, put stars in the sky and plants in the earth. And on the seventh day, God was weary. So God rested.

“God is resting. What does that mean?” asks Jamie G. Drucker, who works as director of student activities and Reformed community counselor at Harvard Hillel. I asked Jaime to tell me about Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest that has place every week from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday Observing the Shabbat is the fourth of the Ten Commandments.

I met her a few weeks ago while having lunch at Rabbi Dani’s. The rabbi said something interesting and I wanted to write it down. “Does anyone have a pen?” I asked out loud, probably a little obnoxiously. Jaime leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Just so you know, some people here don’t write Shabbat.

The specificity of these rules was lost on me over the years after Jewish kindergarten. Jaime reminds me: No phone, no laptop. No writing, no electricity. According to the Torah, these activities are not considered rest. “You can’t find me. I don’t have to answer my emails. I am free not only from the task, but from the burden of the task. It just went,” she said. WowI think. It sounds really good, actually.

Jaime grew up in Florida in a relatively unobservant Jewish family. “My sister calls us ‘bagel and smoked salmon Jews’,” she says. In college at the University of Florida, she studied religion with an emphasis on Islam. “I was doing all this research and asking these people questions about themselves and their relationship to their religion, and someone very kindly asked me, ‘How about you?'”

“It was just like: Whoosh. There’s something dishonest about that, not asking myself the same things I ask others,” says Jaime. This realization began his journey of religious heritage. “Maybe I want to live off of these things,” she remembers thinking. “What is my next opportunity to experience this?

After graduating from college, Jaime came to Divinity School to continue her religious education, where, in a class with Jon Levenson, she was “lubed into command”.

“They say that when the Torah was revealed, it said, ‘we will do and we will understand.’ The way we talk about Torah is that you have some confidence that you will do the right thing, and by doing it, you live your way to understanding why.

So Jaime started doing just that. At the start of the pandemic, she began the weekly practice of observing Shabbat. She cherished Shabbat meals with her pandemic pod. “Especially with Zoom and Covid, it made this day meaningful when the rest of the week was weird,” she says.

So it works ? After Shabbat, does she feel rested? Turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that. “I don’t know if I feel rested,” she begins. “It’s just a reminder that I’m a person apart from the things I do, and that’s also a big part of Shabbat. You’re not allowed to create or destroy… You just marvel at the world as it is, and maybe you lament that the world isn’t as it could be. So that’s a great reset. But we live in the world. We live in the world as much as we live in Shabbat.

Often, following the Sabbath, Jaime is heartbroken. “People talk about Sunday horrors or something? she laughs. “I’m so sad every week.”

Jaime recalled another distant Hebrew school memory of the Saturday night Shabbat closing ceremony, called Havdalah. Havdalah literally means separation, and she explains that it is meant to honor the division between the week and the Sabbath. “Every day isn’t supposed to be Shabbat. Some people say you bring little bits of Shabbat into your week, that’s fine. There’s a sanctity to separation though,” she says.

I appreciate the tangible boundary Havdalah provides when considering the everyday and the sacred, work and rest. And I appreciate that the Shabbat ritual punctuates the rhythm of the week with a certain quietude.

As I am so far, part of the religious connection comes from acting with the trust that in that action there will be an understanding of why. But isn’t it paradoxical: we are commanded to rest, and by following this command, we do, which is in fact the opposite of rest?

Jaime acknowledges this dissonance: “Maybe it’s hard, but I think the rabbis [and] God, they’re smart. They understand that it is difficult to be a person. It’s hard to rest. So we are going to command you to rest, for it is in the fabric of the universe, as the story of creation tells us. And because otherwise, we won’t.

Sitting across from my friend Jeremy OS Orenstein ’24 in the dining room, we talk about Judaism and how awesome rest is. He said, “Let’s do it this weekend!” Go on! Let’s celebrate Shabbat! He really said that. I check my diary: I can’t this weekend. I’m taking kids on a trip to the aquarium and I really need my phone for that.

— The magazine’s associate editor Maya MF Wilson can be reached at [email protected]

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