Sunday, August 8, 2010

Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work

A point that I occasionally make to my students is that there is no word for "fun" in the Hebrew language, and that the very concept of "leisure time" is a modern one.

I discussed this most recently while teaching a group of eighth graders in Camp Moshava, where I spent my summer "working vacation." It has been some time since I can recall taking a "real" vacation. I have succeeded in carving out time when I change my schedule so that I travel or enjoy experiences that break my routine, but invariably those, too, involve work at the same time (e.g. the recent conference that I attended in Sharon, MA).

So this article in last week's New York Times was a reminder that I should be more careful to take a break from things.

According to research quoted in the article:

Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.

The article notes that most of the research has been done with Christian clergy, although many Jewish congregations are now open to the concept of offering Sabbaticals (a Jewish concept, if I ever heard one) to their congregational leaders.

“We now recommend three or four months every three or four years,” said Rabbi Joel Meyers, a past executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis. “There is a deep concern about stress. Rabbis today are expected to be the C.E.O. of the congregation and the spiritual guide, and never be out of town if somebody dies. And reply instantly to every e-mail.”

It's a good start, but how about Jewish educators!

I hope that you are taking it easy this summer.

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