Question:

I'm learning with a girl who wants to know what tangible benefits she can expect from observing Shabbat. She's not interested in the beauty/psychology of a meaningful day of rest, and discussing anything to do with her relationship with G‑d makes her roll her eyes. She likes solid reasons, like "it will make you rich," or "you'll be blessed with success."

Answer:

Shabbat is a powerful tool for creating a harmonious, peaceful home and raising great kids. If done right, it brings meaning to your life and fortifies you with the strength and courage to take on the world while retaining an inner peace.

Of course, it can also be used by fools as a prison. But with the proper mix of spirituality, common sense and just keeping the rules, it can be very beautiful. If it's important to you, you do it right.

Actually, even the prison of Shabbat is better than life without it. How do I know? I attended a conference where one of the presenters was a neurologist discussing religious lifestyles and health. It's well established that a religious lifestyle increases health, wellbeing and longevity. For example, a study of 21,000 Americans concluded that people who attend religious services weekly have a seven year longer life expectancy1. (For African Americans, the difference was fourteen years.) A Canadian study of 70,000 people divided the subjects in four categories:

  • Religious/Spiritual
  • Religious/Not Spiritual
  • Not Religious/Spiritual
  • Not Religious/Not Spiritual

By "religious," the study means they follow religious practices.

Personally, I would have guessed that people who follow religious practice but have no interest in spirituality would take third place at best. In reality, however, the order I've listed them here—that's the order they rated in terms of health and quality of life2.

It turns out that the human organism thrives not on bread alone, not even on the bread smeared with spiritual seeking—but on bread with soul and ritual.

Here's another tidbit from a popular book by Brian Tracy, "Eat That Frog!" Brian acts as a consultant to a lot of very active and successful men and women in the American corporate scene. These are people for whom knowing what's going on in the world is a matter of survival. They come to Brian to learn how to use their time efficiently. He writes (end of chapter 17): "Resolve to take one full day off each week during which you do not touch your computer, check your BlackBerry, or make any attempt to keep in touch with the world technology."

Funny thing, "Tracy" doesn't sound Jewish, but Moses would be proud of the boy.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org