Sarah is a dear old friend of mine. I've known her for years, ever since we went to school together. While Sarah and I are quite close, I have to admit that I don't tell her everything -- this blog, for starters, is a secret from her too.
Anyway, Sarah and I got together this past Shabbos as we do about every other week. We sit, shmooze, talk about husbands, babies, paying the bills -- just shooting the breeze in general. Rarely do we ever get into philisophical matters or topics that we would consider "heavy." However, she brought up an interesting point this past Shabbos.
Sarah works out of the house. She has a 9-5 job as an administrative assistant in a business. Very often, people in her business have to work over the weekend -- projects are due for "first thing Monday morning," clients need information over the weekend, whatever. People in the office complain about this, but, due to the nature of the business, it has to get done. She tells me that she is so thankful for Shabbos. It's a day that she knows that she's guaranteed to not have to think about the office at all. It doesn't matter if the place burns down -- she's "unavailable." As in "Do Not Call... if you do I won't answer."
I can certainly see the appeal in that and I suppose that is one of the good things about Shabbos. I work part-time as a freelance writer. I can certainly appreciate the fact that clients can't bother me on Shabbos (not that they don't try... after the first two months, I learned that I need to take my phone off the hook before Shabbos). Having a day per week where you have a forced separation from work is certainly a good thing. It's one of the benefits of being observant. Of course, that doesn't make it more spiritually fulfilling, but it certainly is beneficial. I never really quite looked at it the way Sarah does, but now that I think about it, it does make sense. It's a day where we are forcibly removed from our labors and (barring emergencies) come hell or high water, we're forced to take a break.
But what if you don't believe in God? Is it right to tell clients "no, you can't contact me on my Sabbath" if you don't believe in God? Is it moral to "take advantage" of the situation like that and impose restrictions on my clients? While they are willing to "put up" with my limitations for my religion, I don't think they'd do so because I just wanted a day off. For example, suppose I went to them and told them "Well, I'm no longer Sabbath observant, so I'll be available for you on Saturday, but I'd really like Mondays off, so don't contact me then," would they be so understanding? Personally, I don't think so -- I think they respect the fact that I profess to have deeply held religious beliefs and are willing to work with me based on that -- but absent those religious beliefs, they wouldn't be so understanding. That being the case, if I don't believe in God, is it moral to continue using this as a reason to not work on Shabbos.
What if I'm not certain what I believe? To be honest, I don't know if God exists. I don't know if He commanded us to keep Shabbos. It's within the realm of possibility that he did, but I think it's also in the realm of possibility that the whole thing is man made. So where does that leave me then?
The thought of having a day off where I'm "out of touch" is very appealing. The thought of using it as an excuse when it's not warranted is not. The fact that I don't what I believe at present just makes it all the more complicated.