Otherworld Practice

“Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.” -Richard Buckminster Fuller

The laws of the Sabbath have always seemed strange to me. There is a general prohibition against “work.” However, Jewish law has a curious definition of what “work” entails. It includes creative activity but excludes heavy lifting in your own domain. One can legally lift and carry the couch from the living room down to the basement the entire day. You can work hard, sweat, pull your back, and while it is certainly not in the spirit of the Sabbath – no “work” prohibition has been violated. However, the simple, painless and effortless act of flicking a light switch is considered “work” and a violation of the Sabbath.

The Ohr Hachayim (Exodus 31:16) has a novel explanation of what the underlying prohibition of “work” on the Sabbath is. He claims that the main prohibition is one of “thought.” Any creative thought, even the turning on of a light, affects the Sabbath spirit. The prohibitions of the Sabbath are meant to give our spirits a rest. There is a fundamental reason our spirits need such a rest. He claims it is a preparation for the afterlife.

There is a belief that on the Sabbath an extra spirit rests on a person. This spirit is ones connection to the upper world, the next world, the afterlife. On the Sabbath we get to practice for the real thing. The next world is meant to be one of enjoyment (within fairly defined and circumscribed conditions) and repose – the time for action and creativity will be over.

Those who train and restrain themselves from creative “work” should have an easy time “adjusting” to the afterlife. Those who haven’t rested on the Sabbath as prescribed will find it much more challenging at that next stage.

May we enjoy our bit of the afterlife in this world.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach (for those still celebrating).



To my nephew, Avrumi Spitz, on his Bar-Mitzvah this Shabbat. We look forward to an exciting and otherworldly event.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and a candidate for the Knesset for the Zehut party. He is the author of three books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.