Who Separates Between Sacred and Secular

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam hamav’dil bein kodesh l’chol

Of all the traditions in Judaism I have always most loved the Havdalah ceremony. At the end of the Sabbath we stop, we bless the wine, the spices, we light a special multi-wick Havdala candle burning brightlycandle and we thank the creator for giving us special times. The final prayer includes the phrase “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who separates between sacred and secular”.

As a Jew I am regularly asked why the more orthodox believe that turning on a light or driving a car is perfectly fine most of the week but not for those hours of the Sabbath. Many find it even more perplexing because even Jews, like myself, who do not attend synagogue or follow many traditions will cling to some Shabbat traditions. We do it for the same reason that we eat turkey on Thanksgiving or we give flowers on Valentine’s day. Traditions and practices define special spaces in our life. We wear a fancy dress to a prom or buy a ring to propose so that we can mark this time as different, to give it priority and to call it out from the rest of our lives. We separate the sacred from the secular!

Every day I listen to clients and friends tell me they “don’t have time” to complete tasks. I am writing this on Monday morning. I guarantee if I call 95% of my clients right now I will hear griping about timesheets not being done or approvals being late. If we asked those responsible why they aren’t done, the universal answer would be “I got busy, I didn’t have time”. My unequivocal response is, you didn’t make time!

We are all busy, life is crazy, I get that, but I also we believe we are the managers of our time. Simple truth, if you wait for time to find you for something it will never happen. You must make time for what matters or what needs to be done. The secret to time management is not multi-tasking or working 10 more hours in a day. The secret is finding sacred time and treating your time for that task as sacred.

One of the simplest changes I recommend to my clients is a set billing schedule. Have your draft invoices ready for review at the same time every month. This predictability allows the reviewers to schedule a routine block of time on their calendar to go over them. The same applies to the timing and dedication to other administrative tasks. I was recently doing some personal/life/executive coaching with a friend who owns a small business. One of his biggest frustrations was invoicing. He felt like it was a constant time drain. As we dissected the situation it turned out this task had no “home”. It was done on the fly, when time allowed and as a result, yes, it was always there. The answer was simple, dedicate time for it once a week. This allowed the accountant to know when they needed to be available, it allowed the vendors to know when items were due if they wanted to be paid and it reduced a constant nagging item down to a set task.

gymIt is just as important to set out time in your personal life too. Work, life and responsibilities can swallow us up. We do for others all day, we do what we have to and at the end of the day we fall into bed exhausted. How often do you hear “I don’t have time for me”. I used to have sympathy for people who said that. Heck I used to be the person who said that. Now I get it. If you don’t make time for you, you won’t have time for you! You need to put you on your calendar with the same commitment to it you would a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with your child’s teacher.

I have no doubt most of you reading this are thinking “that is great I schedule it and then something else gets the time”. That is also your choice and in your control. I have never met anyone who said “we’re busy on Saturday, I’ll put Shabbat off until Tuesday”. When and who encroaches on your sacred time is your choice and no one else’s. The surprising twist of developing a more scheduled life and sticking to it is, the more you do and stick to it. The key is not saying “no” when others ask of you, it is saying “I can’t do it then, but I can do it this other time”.

Not sure where to start when it feels like fires are burning all around you. Start with dinner and your phone. I hate cell phones; I won’t even pretend I don’t. I think they are one of the worst inventions ever. They rob us of our time and our relationships. Think about it. Pre-cell phones our lives had much more “sacred time”. When we were out with friends, our focus was on them, what was going on at home was left there until we got back. I hear all the time about the golden age of air travel, part of why it was golden was it was a sacred event. When we were traveling we dressed up, we focused on what was going on on the plane, we were in the moment. Now we get on a plane and we are on the phone, we are messaging, we are working, we are watching a movie. We are doing all the same things we do every other moment of our life. There is no separation, there is no recognition of the purpose of that moment. So start with dinner. For that one hour, no phone, no gadgets, leave them in another room silenced. Every night talk to the people you are cooking and eating with. Be in that time. Let nothing impinge on it. Can’t do it every night, pick one night a week. Then make it two and three.


Now find other sacred times. Schedule once a month to have a phone call with a friend you only ever talk to on Facebook. Schedule time every morning to have coffee with your spouse. Set office hours and outside of them do not work. Have date night with your child the first of every month. Find those times that matter and make your life whole, set tradition around them and protect them. I promise you when you come out of those times the world will still be waiting for you, but you will be more ready to be part of it!

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