Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Sabbath Day

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exodus 20:8-10

I love the Sabbath. I love having a day set aside for spiritual pursuits, a day where I can say no to worldly cares. Some of the best Sabbaths I've had have been when I've been visiting my extended family. We sit and talk and get caught up with one another. The conversations range from current events to what's going on in our lives, to spiritual topics. It feels refreshing.

I live in an apartment right now with four other women. I'm the only Sabbath observer in the apartment. We're in pretty close quarters, so it's hard to find a quiet space sometimes. I've come to realize that in many ways, the Sabbath is a feeling I can carry with me, regardless of what is going on around me.

When the Ten Commandments were given, two reasons were listed for the commandment to observe the Sabbath:
In Exodus 20:11, we are reminded of the story of the creation. "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
In Deuteronomy 5:15, we are reminded of the miracle of the children of Israel being led out of Egypt. "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day."

We live in an increasingly 24/7 world. Obviously, there is some work that must be done, even on the Sabbath. Police officers, fire fighters, and emergency room personnel must be available at all times. When my car broke down on the way home from church, I was grateful that a tow truck driver was working and was able to help me pull my modern-day ox out of the mire.

However, I worry about what is going to happen to my Sabbath observance when I get out into the legal field. I already feel at a bit of a disadvantage even in law school, since I don't study or do homework on Sunday. I have six days to do what everyone else has seven days to do, and with how competitive law school is, it's a sacrifice. (I've been blessed for making that sacrifice, so I'm not complaining.)

I know I have several lawyers who read my blog. How do you manage observing the Sabbath while working as a lawyer? For you non-lawyers out there, how do you manage Sabbath observance with your job?


Peter R. said...

A lot of LDS or otherwise sabbath-observant attorneys make this determination on the front-end, taking jobs with smaller firms or government agencies that don't demand 24-7 associate availability. Most of my career has been in government service thus far, and that was a major factor in my decision.

My friends who still work at the firms say that they tell their employers that their time belongs to the firm six days a week, but they need Sundays for church and family. And as long as they put in their time, they seldom had to work on a Sunday. I also think that you can control some of this by not responding to unnecessary emails or phone calls on weekends. I know a guy who calls Sundays "the day without Blackberries."

Stephen said...

Peter R has made an important point. As soon as you accept that there are more important things than money or status, there is a lot of freedom.

Further, I remember a friend of mine getting the orientation materials for the Harvard MBA program around '79 or so. They included the advice to take at least half a day off every week. They did not tell people to go to church (they suggested museums, rest, etc. instead) but the implications were clear.

Taking time off to catch up on rest, to let your mind go in other directions and to retreat from the world, really helps you perform better.

It is possible, it has been for me.

C.J. Stutz said...

To me, it's not so much an issue of what's more important, but what's worth having, period. Not all success is created equal, and I'd argue that success, which comes at the cost of compromising your personal goals, even your personal happiness, is no success at all.

It absolutely is possible to achieve success in the world--including the legal world--while maintaining personal boundaries. Large firms in particular will tell you this isn't true, but ask yourself, what's in it for them? What do they want from you, and why are they giving you this advice? Large firms thrive on junior associates who don't have the confidence to assert boundaries; they work 80 hours a week, because they believe it's necessary to their success--and then, 5 years down the road, they're fired and replaced with lateral hires from the public sector, or smaller private firms.

My better half, a DA, works a solid 70--80 hours a week, every week, but we make it work. Sundays (and at least half of the day on Saturdays) are off days, no matter what. We've reorganized our schedule so we can have FHE, no matter what. I have a significantly less demanding job in the private sector, which means I can still devote time and energy to domestic chores. It really comes down to determination: if you want to make it work, you can.