Sabbath Chic

People of many faiths are finding the up side to down time.

"You snooze, you lose" may not be the official mantra of the 21st century, but in a culture moving at warp speed, don't be too surprised if it makes the Top 10.

We're hooked in, signed on, trading, buying, selling, dating, checking e-mail, and answering our cell phones around the clock. Take a nap and somebody just might take over your company, steal your girlfriend, or give your job to somebody else.

Which makes it all the more strange that Al Gore has just tapped Joe Lieberman--a guy who actually knows how to take a break--to share the Democratic ticket. The Connecticut senator and vice-presidential nominee is an Orthodox Jew who takes his Sabbaths seriously, and from Friday night until Saturday evening he makes a conscious effort to respect his tradition's emphasis on rest and sacred time. If there's urgent business on Capitol Hill, he'll show up, but on foot; if it's not pressing, he'll reschedule for another day.

Such practice may be unusual for a politician, but for an increasing number of Americans, it's not at all strange. Paul Underwood, a 33-year-old civil engineer from Los Angeles, realized last year that a day of rest was a central component of his spiritual life.


"I'm like a guy spinning plates, and you have to make sure they keep spinning," says Underwood, a Baptist with two jobs who is expecting his second child later this month. "I'm a dad, I'm a husband, a worker, I'm also on a ministry staff. There are some days when you don't get to sleep until midnight, and you get up at 5 a.m."

Inspired by recent books as well as some sermons at church, Underwood and his wife, Cate, made a deliberate move to fight what they call "the tyranny of the urgent." Last Sunday after church, instead of catching up on housework or paying bills, they put their toddler down for a nap and talked, read the paper, and watched a rented movie.

"God created us, and he knows we can't go full on seven days a week," Underwood says. "We need down time."

It's a trend that seems to be catching on. Talor Halevi, 46, a Jewish educator in Boulder, Colo., says he has noticed an increasing number in his community setting aside Shabbat to rest quietly with family. A father of four in a house with two working parents, four telephones, and five computers, Halevi finds in Shabbat a time for family meals, conversation, and outdoor recreation.

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