Beginning a Sabbatical is like rebooting a computer and running software to clean out all of the caches and shut down all of the programs that automatically launch and run in the background.
The first weekend and most of the first week is dedicated to paying attention to all of the habitual behaviors I engage in. I like to work. I like to be busy. When I am not working, I like to be thinking of working, planning what I need to do next, sometimes making lists of things to do. I look forward to getting back to the office on Monday morning. Shutting down the mental processes that drive me takes time, but without it, I won’t be able to explore a different set of mental processes.
To some extent, and to no great surprise, the practice of Shabbat prepares one for the larger practice of Sabbatical. On Shabbat, I shut down a portion of my weekday life. Computer, tablet, phone; no internet, no email, no electronic news. Actually, given that there is no newspaper delivery on Saturday, I really disconnect myself from a portion of the world around me. So far, the world has handled itself for better or for worse without my help … and had I been paying more attention, the world would still have handled itself for better or for worse!
Shabbat teaches me that I am not that important in the grand scheme of things; and a Sabbatical teaches me a similar lesson, that my synagogue can get along without me for a few months. Granted, I don’t have to prepare the world for my one-day-a-week absence, but I have spent most of the past two weeks and a significant part of the past month preparing the synagogue for my absence. However, this was my third Sabbatical, and we’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what needs to be done, and who needs to do it.
My job this weekend and this week is not to let myself get caught up in synagogue thoughts. I have to be confident that as problems arise, the president, the cantor, the chair of the ritual committee, along with the wisdom of a cadre of past presidents and board members and committee chairs can handle them.