Anxiety, time-space and Shabbos.

Anxiety begins well before we experience a “trigger”, it starts with how we view reality itself. We typically see ourselves and our immediate circumstances as fixed; it is our reality, and is as real as real gets. Change on the other hand, is the invader. The passage of time acts upon us; we age, people move away, others pass on to a better world, and all the while we stay in our static reality.

It would be one thing if we became anxious with change, but we don’t suffice with that, we anticipate the change and it leaves us with an underlying anxious feeling. With this as our baseline feeling, it is no wonder that we are so easily triggered into full-blown anxiety.

But is change not as real as the solid ground beneath our feet? Is our reality truly fixed, with time and change acting upon it from the outside? Or is the passage of time and fluidity the true face of reality?

To better understand the moving nature of reality, let us examine time and space through the lens of the Maharal. In mid-sixteenth century Prague, he wrote the following words, “Time and space are one concept.” Today we all have a rough idea about relativity, but for his time, the Maharal’s words were a novelty.

There’s a great debate amongst physicists and philosophers regarding time, but all agree that we experience time in a linear fashion, a minute leads to another minute, forming hours, days, weeks and years.

Rabbi Moshe Shapiro would often comment on the Hebrew word for time, zman. He explained that zman is related to zimun, to invite or to initiate a process; in a sense, each moment “invites” the future. Time is entirely about perception and experience, and those experiences are part of a journey. This journey is one that leads beyond this material world, to the spiritual World-to-Come.

The journey of time is represented in the six days of the week; the destination of all human experience (time) is the seventh day – the Shabbos.

Six also represents the six directions, north, south, east, west, up and down. Our interactions with space (matter) are always in process. We are either moving from point-to-point, or we are changing a raw egg into a cooked egg, all are processes that take time. The seventh dimension is spiritually represented by the Temple, a place on this earth that transcends space.

Hashem created reality – time and space – as a journey to reach our destination, the World-to-Come. Shabbos and the holy Temple both represent the destination here in this world; they are like a mid-way stop, giving us a taste of the final destination. But what is the World-to-Come? Is it the ultimate arrival where one can just “be”? If it is the destination, should it not be the end to all journeying?

Our sages explain that the journey continues in the World-to-Come. However, this journey is pure pleasure. Gone is the anxious feeling of not seeing the destination; we will experience the pure pleasure of climbing higher and higher in our knowledge of Hashem.

Our travels in the here-and-now are bringing us closer and closer to Hashem, we may not see it; but, rest assured that it is happening. There is only one train ride, with only one destination.  

On Shabbos – the seventh day – there is a special energy, a gift from above. On this day we can step beyond the (sometimes) frustrating journey of this world, to the joyous travels of the world of reward. Time takes on a different meaning, we journey in place, as the trip is a spiritual one. Matter stands still, as we have no need to change locations, or cook an egg. As the sages say, “on Shabbos consider all your work as done.”

We began with the idea that anxiety is born of a clash between reality and change.  Shabbos empowers us to realize that the journey is truly the reward – and that reward is the ultimate reality.

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