Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

When vacation is good for the soul

The writer on a weekend vacation. The Mill in Pigeon Forge, TN. August 24, 2019.

This weekend I went away with a few girlfriends to celebrate one friend’s milestone birthday. There we were, a group of Jewish women in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, tasting hard cider, wine and moonshine, and I began to think about the concept of vacation.

Many consider vacation as an opportunity to recharge one’s batteries. In English, vacate means to leave, get out of, make empty. And one can think about vacation as a way to take leave from the burdens of every day, to get out of the daily grind, to empty oneself.

In Hebrew, we can think of it with a slightly different nuance. The word for vacation, נוֹפֵשׁ (nofesh), shares a root, נ – פ – שׁ, nun-fay-shin, with the word soul, נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh). What a lovely thought.

Nefesh is considered the level of consciousness that is tied up in awareness of the physical, both the body and the world. Our living soul animates us. It helps us feel alive.

The Torah divides the soul into three parts, neshama (breath), ruach (wind) and nefesh (rest). The last is addressed “in the verse, ‘On the seventh day, [God] ceased work and rested (nafash).’ (Exodus 31:17).” From this resting state, this state of inaction, we arrive at vacation.

To spend time in a beautiful setting with friends – or as I did two weeks ago in Blue Ridge, GA, with my husband and our collective children – is a wonderful way to stop doing and, instead, start breathing in all that is good, to awaken and enrich our soul. If we view stopping our daily activity to take a vacation, whether with family or friends, as an opportunity to fill our soul with beauty as well as with friendship, we are benefiting from more than from vacating, from emptying ourselves, in order to recharge batteries. This is not to say that sometimes we don’t need to take a break, but there must be more going on than leaving our daily responsibilities and making ourselves empty. We need to fill our soul with that which makes us soar, like relationships with people or with nature. Breaking bread with those we care about doesn’t empty us, it fills us. Fills us with love and with hope, even on days that we read about drone attacks and our president suggesting nuclear war as a solution to hurricanes. And when we are filled with what brings us personal nourishment, our souls are made stronger.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Lawn Guyland, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta since returning to the U.S. in 2003. Recently remarried, this Ashkenazi mom of three Mizrahi sons, 27, 24 and 19, splits her time between managing knowledge in corporate America, pursuing a dual masters in public administration and integrated global communications, relentlessly Facebooking, enjoying the arts and trying to bring a wider perspective to the topics she covers while blogging.
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