Some weeks ago, I was blessed to be a part of the inaugural Sacks Scholars retreat in Israel which linked me up with a group of remarkable communal and lay leaders from around the world.

The aim of the Sacks Scholars programme is to bring together a group of educators, academics, and leaders to study and develop the teachings of Rabbi Sacks, ensuring that his messages remain relevant and accessible to future generations all over the world.

It is this message, this task, this mission, that simultaneously fills me with pride and with humility: with awe and trepidation, with joy and with great excitement. It is this mission that asks of me to teach, write, and try to inspire others over the next few months and years.

At this life changing retreat, I met some of the finest, most remarkable, brilliant, talented and surprisingly hilarious people, many of whom were extremely close with Rabbi Sacks and all of whom are inspired by Harav Sacks, each and every day of their lives. His work imbues their actions, their work in their communities and schools and their university campuses.

One such individual is Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky and he has since shared a remarkable idea with our group, one that I want to share with our community today. The idea comes from comes from Rabbi Norman Lamm in an article called "Indispensability: Myth and Fact” within his book “Festivals of Faith”, published in 1963.

He teaches us that the ‘Bratzlaver Chasidim’ offer us a remarkable suggestion: every day ought to contain at least one "dead hour." All our waking hours are so filled with life, with nervous tensions of all sort that afflict us in the course of our daily affairs in commerce, in business, in professions, in society.

Our emotions are engaged with others, our feelings entangled with them, our sensitivities inflamed with real or imaginary slights to our pride, our minds overflowing with a myriad of details and plans, worries and concerns on paying bills, satisfying employers or employees, pacifying clients or customers, meeting the competition, keeping up with the neighbours. 

These so-called "live" hours are so preoccupied with other people, that we utterly ignore our own selves; no wonder we have so little inner peace, inner tranquillity. We are "alive" so tensely, so neurotically, so busily, that we head straight for the psychiatrist's couch and for spiritual oblivion. 

Hence, say the ‘Bratzlaver Chasidim’, keep one little hour set aside as your dead hour. Make no appointments, answer no phone calls, read no newspapers, keep away from radio and television, see no people, write no memos to yourself. Be "dead to the world" — and alive to yourself. Banish all your usual problems from your mind. Think of where you are going in life — or, perhaps, where life is taking you; the difference is worth thinking about. Ponder your own conduct, and what it is doing to you and to your character and personality. Project into the future — that of yourself, your children, your community. Make a ‘cheshbon ha-nefesh’ (personal account) with yourself that may help you redirect and reorient your day-to-day activities. 

And if you are not the contemplative kind — then pull your mind out of the sucking whirlpool of daily business and elevate yourself to a new and higher kind of existence by reading that which is enduring, reviewing the Parasha, finding inspiration to a higher-than-animal existence through art or music, studying a blatt gemara — dead to the world, and alive to yourself. 

One "dead hour" a day can make all of life worth living!"

I couldn’t resist sharing this with you, dear Perth community. What better way to prepare for the New Jewish Year, than to commit to trying to find one dead hour per day, to be ALIVE to youself?

One "dead hour" a day can make all of life worth living!"

Wishing you and your families a kativa ve’chatima tova. Shana Tova!

Simon Lawrence

Director of Jewish Studies, Carmel School