Making Sacred Time & Space As a Jewish Atheist

This Rosh Hashanah has been one of the most quietly transformative experiences of my life. Taking this time to rest, renew, and take a real accounting of my life in the days leading up to Yom Kippur has been truly wonderful.

Whether you read the rest of this or not, I’d love to see your answers to the following questions:

What is one new ritual you want to add to your life?

What stories are you telling that are serving you well? What stories might not do you much good any longer?

What time or space do you keep sacred? What time or space do you want to keep sacred? What can you do to make this possible?

It’s funny that lately I’ve come to consider myself religious but not spiritual. I’m a fan of ritual for my own purposes, but I don’t believe in God or the supernatural. The meaning we create is more important to me than the meaning that is handed down by the rabbis or sages or even the alleged hand of Moses himself.

Thus, it’s interesting to me that I’ve taken so much of Jewish ritual to heart lately, even as I have become more secure in my own atheism & lack of spiritual belief.

That said, I’m making a public commitment to make Shabbat and other Jewish holy days sacred times for rest, renewal, and reflection. I’m taking this Heschel quote to heart, especially:

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world. ”

What does this mean for me?

  • Taking a real vacation – away from e-mail and work and everything that is not a Wholehearted Yes – not just when I’m given permission to do so, but on a regular basis.
  • Taking time to reflect every day, even for a few minutes.
  • Before I say Yes to something, be quiet for a few moments and listen to my heart – Is this a Wholehearted Yes or just a not-No? – If I give myself space to consent fully and wholeheartedly or to say no to things that aren’t my Yes, then I’m supporting a consent culture on the wider scale.
  • Pick one new ritual to add to my life and do it wholeheartedly. I’ve decided that the ritual for this month or quarter or season or however long I decide it’ll last is to take 15 minutes to dust my room thoroughly from top to bottom as soon as I come home. Making sure my space is clean and dust-free is an act of self-love and compassion–I’ll breathe better, sleep better, and in general feel better about my space, and that’ll spread into all the other corners of my life.
  • Tell one new story about my life that I have not told before. Our stories create our reality. My new story for this month or quarter or season or however long I decide I’ll tell it for is that I love being alone. I feel rejuvenated and fulfilled when I have time to listen to my own thoughts. Quietude is refreshing.
  • Speak less, listen more, breathe deeply. And go to therapy – taking care of my own health is a radical act.

Ok, your turn! I’d love to hear from you, if you feel comfortable telling me.

What is one new ritual you want to add to your life?

What stories are you telling that are serving you well? What stories might not do you much good any longer?

What time or space do you keep sacred? What time or space do you want to keep sacred? What can you do to make this possible?