Separating Momentum From Your Beliefs

NOTE: I wanted to write about our Disney Trip today, but this post was bubbling beneath the surface and demanded to be written. I’ll get back to Disney last week. (Well, get back to blogging about it… I can only dream about going back to Disney World sometimes soon!)

I’ve written before about my “divided self.” Part of me is very scientific and wants to explain everything via the scientific method. Part of me is religious and wants to cling to the traditions that I adopted as I grew up. The two sides often war with each other. My scientific side arguing that there is no need for doing a particular thing due to Scientific facts A, B and C and my religious side arguing that there are valid reasons for doing things such a way due to laws X, Y and Z in the Torah.

As I mentioned in Shackles of Habit, though, the mere fact that you’ve done something a certain way for awhile can lead to you not wanting to change how you do things. Even if your reasoning behind the action becomes moot, is proven wrong, or if circumstances change, it can still be tough to alter your habits from what you have been doing.

I realized this just last week. During our Disney World trip, as I had done the previous year, I decided to take pictures, turn on/off lights, and do various other things that I usually wouldn’t do because it was Shabbat. This trip included two “exception Shabbats”: The first when we were travelling down to Disney World and the second when we were travelling back. During the trip back, I reflected on my “breaking the Shabbat” and how it reflected my beliefs.

First, a little background. I wasn’t raised religious. In fact, growing up, I ate bacon double-cheeseburgers at Roy Rogers and watched TV on Saturday with impunity. About the only time we were religious was during Passover. (For that, we went strictly Kosher-For-Passover with a whole house cleanup done almost entirely by my mother.)

In Hebrew School, I began to be tought various Jewish laws and decided to follow a few of them. Bit by bit I became more religious. My family, meanwhile, resisted this change. My sister would microwave bacon in the microwave just before I’d use it, my mother would serve stuffing with dairy next to chicken forgetting that I couldn’t eat it, and my father would ask me to turn on lights and then ask why when I said I couldn’t.

At some point, my actions sparked my parents to get more religious. To the point that they (well, my father, really) stormed out of our Conservative temple when a woman was called to read from the Torah. We started attending an Orthodox temple and I learned a bit more there. Eventually, I headed off to college, but then returned home after graduating.

Here is where I think the seeds of my dilemma began. My interest in science was intense leading up to college and only grew while I was in college. While I did get more religious in college, it also showed me that there could be conflicts between secular life and religious life. Then, when I returned to my home life, my parents founded a new synagogue with a rabbi that I didn’t quite care for. He was too extreme in his beliefs (very anti-science) and I just couldn’t follow his teachings. I attended only because my parents went there, but I didn’t feel connected to it.

Fast forward to present day. On the flight back from Disney World, I began thinking about my Shabbat beliefs. What did I really believe? What was I doing out of momentum? I didn’t want to go against things that I honestly believed in, but at the same time I didn’t want to keep doing things out of sheer momentum. (Especially if such things were a burden to my family.)

I came to the conclusion that I believed that Shabbat should be a special day. While the Torah calls for it to be a day of praising God, that isn’t how I had been celebrating it for quite some time and I didn’t feel any pull to begin celebrating it that way. Instead, for me, making Shabbat special meant spending time with my family.

In addition, I decided to research anew many of the rules I’ve followed in the past. Some (no electricity), I found I was following based on faulty reasoning (electricity doesn’t equal fire) and the other reasons for it I just didn’t agree on. (In fact, one of the reasons is that “people have done it this way for awhile” which is another way of saying “the momentum is going this way so let’s keep doing it for no valid reason.”) Others (cooking), I’ve found that I was actually doing even when I tried to avoid other, less serious violations (turning on the stove). In addition, I’d often ask B or NHL to turn something on when I wanted it done and that wasn’t exactly “keeping Shabbat.” If I couldn’t live with it being off, then either I should adjust or turn it on myself.

In the end, I’ve come up with two general rules that I’ll follow for Shabbat.

Rule #1: No work.

By this, I mean I can’t work at my profession or use anything that might make me work at my profession. In other words, no using the computer (obvious, I’m a webmaster), phones (could talk about work), or writing (I could sketch out some work to enter that night).

Rule #2: No ‘Social Media’.

I want to focus on my family for this day, not how many followers I have or whether anyone’s commented on my blog or if I have any new e-mails. Practically, these restrictions are the same as Rule 1’s, but it means no checking/sending text messages also.

What would be allowed now are things like turning on/off the TV, turning on/off lights, turning on/off the stove/oven/microwave if I’m cooking, etc. I’m still unsure if I’ll drive on Shabbat. Perhaps I’ll leave that one in the “I don’t do” category for now and see how these changes go. (That one involves creating fire via the spark plugs in the engine and I can see why that would be a Shabbat no-no.) Still, I have a feeling that B will be very happy with the changes I’ve decided on so far.

Do you take No Work/No Social Media/Family Only days?


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  • Admittedly I do not know a whole lot about Shabbat. I think in the Christian faith there is no call for removing yourself from work in such an extreme. I think there is something to taking a day to break from “everyday” and focus on the things that matter more like family and faith. I think it is a great idea. Maybe your new adaptations are good for moving your faith – your PERSONAL faith – which is not a bad thing.

    I believe that the scriptures are great guidelines – but both yours and ours were written in a time well before “flipping a switch” meant that you could operate during the evening. They were written when “making fire” meant MAKING fire, which was a lot of work.

    Thank you for thinking about your faith, and in turn making me think about mine. This is the only way we grow.
    .-= RobMonroe´s last blog ..Another Busy Weekend! =-.

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