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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Opinion | Sabbath traditions can remind us all that rest is sacred

Opinion+%7C+Sabbath+traditions+can+remind+us+all+that+rest+is+sacred
Carrington Bryan | Staff Illustrator

In “Little House in the Big Woods,” Laura Ingalls Wilder recalls despising Sundays as a young girl. In their 1880s homestead, the Wilders marked the seventh day of the week with pious reflection and quiet — no work or play permitted. Though her parents may have found this experience meaningful, Wilder wrote that as a child, Sundays were difficult.

“One Sunday after supper she could not bear it any longer. She began to play with Jack, and in a few minutes she was running and shouting. Pa told her to sit in her chair and be quiet, but when Laura sat down she began to cry and kick the chair with her heels. ‘I hate Sunday!’ she said.”

But not every interpretation of the Sabbath, the “day of rest,” requires solemnity and stillness. Many modern-day Christians see Sundays as a celebration — a time to reconnect with family, recover from the week and express their faith in community. Some Christian traditions make joy the focus of many weekend services and incorporate energetic singing or communal meals.

Some Orthodox Jewish traditions require adherence to specific rules, ranging from not turning on or off any electricity to the lesser-known injunction against moving a category of items called muktzeh, like flowers in a vase or dry beans. There’s a delightful loophole to the muktzeh rule — people can permissibly move them in very unusual or awkward ways, like with their teeth or elbows.

Cynical reactions to these traditions ask derisively why God would want people to follow such specific rules. But this attitude misses what Shabbat-observant Jews say makes Shabbat so meaningful. 

“Does all this mean that Shabbat is somewhat of a miserable affair, where we sit hungry in the dark?” asks a Chabad webpage on the Shabbat laws. “Not at all. It simply means that we have to prepare for Shabbat in advance, so that, on the contrary, we celebrate in luxury, without doing any of the actual work, on Shabbat.”

Some people who grew up not marking Shabbat find meaning in the practice later in life. In her book “Here All Along,” Sarah Hurwitz, former high-powered speechwriter for Michelle Obama, writes about “rediscovering” her Judaism. She writes that although she found it difficult to follow the modified Shabbat rules she set, like shutting off her phone for the day — a big deal for a White House employee — and prioritizing rest, she also found the experience profound. It led her to dedicate a chapter of her book to thinking about ways modern religious and secular Jews, and even non-Jews in different ways, can create their own practices. 

In the context of the hustle and bustle of family life, especially now that most two-parent households are also two-earner ones, celebrating a weekly holiday that requires a halt in the week’s work is a daunting task. But the reward is a day to focus on spirituality, family and rest. Contrast this with grind culture, which tells us that every second that passes is another potential moneymaking enterprise lost in the blink of an eye, and Sabbath celebrations that require abstaining from everyday activities are downright radical.

Americans on the whole spend less time at work than ever — but don’t necessarily feel more relaxed for it. Though the average employee in 2024 works around 34.1 hours per week, compared to 55 hours in 1900, people in both years spent a similar amount of time on leisure.

The ubiquity of cell phones and emails are one obvious explanation for why the increased time we have doesn’t translate to more leisure. It’s hard to relax when work emails flood your home screen faster than you can mark them read or when there’s the constant threat of having your hours changed unexpectedly, as is often the case for hourly employees. Employers send the unspoken message to their employees that they need to be reachable even when they’re off the clock.

I’m not a religious person, but I do think there’s something sacred about rest and retreat. What would it look like for all of us to put rest and celebration first every week — to say no to the encroachment of everything else on our time? 

Bringing the value of a day of rest into your life doesn’t mean you need to follow a particular regimen or even make your tradition last a full day. You might set up a weekly date with a friend, commit to spending six hours with your phone in the other room or read for pleasure rather than for school before bed. You could cook one fancy meal, hike a new trail or learn a new song on the ukulele once a week. It could be any day, for any amount of time — the point is being mindful of the time you’re occupying and to make it a point to set aside that time.

Religious Sabbath celebrations also help us rethink what rest can mean. Rest can be a day of comforters and snoozed alarms, and often needs to be, but it can also be mental, spiritual or emotional. Religious observances involve attending services or carrying out specific rituals, and cultural norms emphasize community and family — none of which involve napping. Depending on what you’re running low on, your rest might mean reading a dense book about medieval cheesemaking, laughing with a friend or meditating. Deep rest requires identifying what you’re not getting in your day-to-day life and setting aside time to treasure it.

Rest, too, might ask us to do things we’re not so keen on doing — like deleting social media, letting our bosses know we’ll be offline or saying no to plans we don’t want to miss out on but we know will just wear us out more. This is where discipline comes in. In Judaism, Shabbat is called a “precious jewel,” even a queen, but marking it — especially with traditional observance — requires thought, planning and self-control. Someone has to bathe the kids and precook three meals. We should be wary of making routines solely around what’s easiest — it’s not necessarily what we need. It might keep us from finding the most meaningful practice. 

Though you should listen to your physical needs, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging your whims or cravings for a sweet treat, it’s worth remembering that Western culture — particularly secular — tends to emphasize desire fulfillment and consumption above commitment to holistically positive traditions. In this way, making rest intentional might also lead you to borrow from Buddhism, or from ancient Stoic philosophy. It might take some trial and error to strike a balance between what your monkey mind wants and what your human self needs. 

For people who technically have more time off, but feel more burned out regardless, giving structure and even ritual to leisure time can help us get more out of it. Rather than guiltily procrastinating by watching YouTube, we can decide to set a timer and actually enjoy the videos, then get back to our schoolwork — or have a weekly YouTube and rot night. 

It may be that I’m bastardizing sacred religious traditions by putting them in the same article as advice to have a weekly routine that could hypothetically involve Mr. Beast. What I mean to say, though, is that religious Sabbath observance is proof that people have considered rest sacred for a long, long time. For those of us outside these traditions, it’s worth learning from them and reflecting on what it means to put distractions on pause.

 

Livia Daggett is a junior politics-philosophy and writing major. Mr. Beast scares them. If he scares you, too, email Livia at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Livia Daggett, Assistant Copy Chief
Livia Daggett is a junior double majoring in politics-philosophy and nonfiction writing. They love that this is the only job where you get paid exclusively for nitpicking. You can find them petting other people’s cats and agonizing over whether to go to law school. Email them at  with places to get a yummy meal in Pittsburgh for less than $10 or complaints in solidarity about the AP policy on Oxford commas—one day, we’ll all wear them down together.