As I noted three weeks ago, I’m living into a fallow season of my life right now. In addition to not planting a summer garden, I’m seeking to scale back on the external stimuli in my life, especially what I receive through the Internet and social media. I wish to allow time and space for grief and also for deep listening to God. One image that came to me as I pondered ways to do this was the sabbath elevator.

I encountered this shabbat or sabbath elevator during our pilgrimage to the Holy Land last November. As you can see from the image, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about this elevator. In fact, it doesn’t look any different on the inside either. It’s only the programming that makes it different—and only on the sabbath.

When the sabbath begins, this elevator is programmed to stop at every floor and open and close its doors automatically. This allows observant Jews, who are not allowed to work on the sabbath, to make their way from one floor of a building to another. (Yes, pushing buttons qualifies as work. So, what did observant Jews do before electronic programming and timers, you ask? They hired a Shabbos goy, a non-Jew, to do things for them.)

But my point is less about the logistics and more about the impact. Think for a minute about taking the sabbath elevator during the sabbath. You would not have to press any buttons—and, in fact, the elevator would ignore you if you did. You would just get to stand there and wait patiently as the elevator slowly made its way from one floor to the next, watching who got on and off and perhaps having brief and interesting conversations with them.

How often do we do that these days? How often do we pay attention to where we are in the moment rather than focusing on where we are going? When was the last time you chose to slow down and talk with people you don’t know (“strangers”) rather than preparing to rush off to what lies ahead? What might be the impact of letting go of control about when you arrived at your destination and just allowing what unfolds in front of you to be the most important thing?

I think we could all benefit from embracing that perspective. It’s like choosing one item out of the overwhelming barrage of images and ideas that come at us every day and focusing on just that one thing until we’ve received what it has to teach us.

What else do you imagine might happen if you took a ride on a sabbath elevator?

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