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Make it on Sunday

Make it on Sunday

My client called, perturbed that I'd stopped working on Shabbat.


"The World is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers." - William Wordsworth

About three years ago, I made an important decision about deepening my commitment to Jewish practice. The result of that decision led me to an important discovery that I have never forgotten.

I had been attending synagogue regularly every Saturday morning for many years, but I had continued working in the afternoons. I justified it because, as an interior designer, I found it difficult to see my clients who had day jobs during the weekdays. Evenings proved equally difficult, especially because that was time I spent with my children. That left only Saturday afternoons and Sundays for scheduling appointments with my working clients.

Slowly, however, in subtle ways I began noticing my discomfort and ambivalence about beginning Shabbat in prayer and contemplation -- and then suddenly being in the mode of "getting and spending." My deepening connection to Shabbat and the special mood I was able to create would dissipate when I became involved in work and material matters. I experienced it as a "disconnect."

Finally I decided that I would not accept any more work on Shabbat.

I felt good about my decision. One morning, however, I received a call from Karen, one of my best clients, with whom I had worked for many years. Karen had recommended me to her friend, Joanna, and she was calling to tell me how perturbed she was when she found out from Joanna that I wouldn't work on Saturdays. "You always worked on Saturdays for me."

I took a deep breath. "Yes, I know," I acknowledged, "but something has changed in my life. I made a commitment as part of my spiritual and religious practice, not to work on Shabbat, and not to do any work which could contribute toward my earning a living."

"Well, I guess you don't care about your livelihood if you made such a decision," Karen said, with an edge to her voice. "After all, we work all week long, and we have such long hours that we can't even see you in the evenings, which only leaves Saturday and Sunday."

"I can hear the level of your frustration and consternation in your voice at this new information," I affirmed, "but this is a serious decision which I did not arrive at lightly. And I'm truly sorry for the inconvenience to you and Joanna."

There was a long silence. I waited, expecting and fearing that Karen would announce that our working relationship was terminated.

"Well then," she finally said, "we'll make it on Sunday."

God was testing to see if my commitment was real.

I thanked her, and we said goodbye. I hung up the phone, a broad grin spreading across my face. I looked heavenward and addressed my comments out loud to the Creator:

"You were testing me, weren't you... to see if my commitment was real, and to see if I could not be swayed from my resolve to make Shabbat holy?"

I experienced God's smile in return, as a canopy of warmth spread over me.

Since then, I've never reneged on my commitment, even turning down money that I needed. The money I sacrificed would always come back in another form, I soon discovered. But a Shabbat lost is a Shabbat lost forever.

December 4, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Jacob, January 15, 2011 2:44 PM

The real test

I loved the story. It took courage and commitment to tell a client "Not today." But, you are your own boss too. Let's hear from people who work for someone else and were told to work on Shabbat or be fired!

(6) Kelli, August 22, 2008 7:34 AM

God knows

God always knows what we'll do before we do it, yet scripture is very clear that he does test us and my own life can attest to this. The test is for us. He know's the truth of what is in our hearts, but until the test, many times we don't. It is written that the heart is deceitful above all things. Had I never been pressed enough to have to rely on Him and seen my own reaction, I would have never realized that I didn't truly trust Him. It is only when he reveals to us what is in our own hearts that we can begin to change. Testing is a gift.

(5) Moshe, August 13, 2007 7:41 PM

G-d knows, but Man has to strive to become ever greater

Hey Anonymous 8/12/2007! I'm curious to know if you'll actually return to see this answer. The question is, "Why would G-d test the author, doesn't He already know what the result will be?" The answer to this question is that it is like a potter that strikes a pot to make it stronger (supposedly, potterers strike newly made pots to make them stronger). By exerting the effort to pass a test, one becomes a greater person, and is able to overcome even greater tests. It is also like an athlete who tests himself in order to see the maximum weight he can lift. By attempting to surpass his current level of achievement, the weight lifter becomes stronger. G-d gives people tests in order that they can strive and overcome them and thereby become better people. Humans need tests to be the best that they can be.

(4) Anonymous, August 12, 2007 2:50 PM

God doesn't know?

Your article says, ''G-d was testing to see if my commitment was real...'' Was He? He wasn't sure so He perform an experiment and make sure? Just curious.

(3) M Hockman, July 13, 2005 12:00 AM


Keep it up Shabbos is worth all the difficulty you might be experiencing.

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