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Journey to 25 – your path to emotional and spiritual fitness

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Couch to 5K is one of the world’s most popular fitness apps. Very simply, it’s an exercise plan for beginners that motivates them to start running by taking small, incremental steps on the road to super-fitness.

The app’s success is driven by a basic observation about human nature. Many people want the benefits of physical fitness – health, well-being, energy, optimism – but somehow never get around to it. It just seems too daunting. The goal seems too far off. So, the app proposes a simple methodology: start small. Begin with a manageable goal – a five-minute walk – and build from there. Within nine weeks, users are running 5kms without a break.

The secret is that each step by itself is completely manageable. You start from nothing (the couch!) and then, each day, you do a little bit more. In that way, the goal – seemingly so far off to begin with – is achievable.

This got me thinking. Right from the beginning of The Shabbos Project (this year is the tenth one), so many people have told me how much they loved keeping Shabbos on the project, how meaningful and enjoyable the experience was, how they wish they could keep Shabbos every week.

And yet, as much as they want it, many told me that it feels too daunting to start keeping all 25 hours of Shabbos, from sunset to stars out, every single week. In other words, there’s a will to keep Shabbos, but people are looking for a way to get there.

The analogy to physical fitness is striking. Just like getting fit, keeping Shabbos is good for us. It’s at the heart of being a Jew; it’s one of our most important mitzvahs; it brings us joy; and we want to do it. Shabbos gives us the emotional, psychological, and spiritual fitness we all crave.

Emotionally, Shabbos gives us the time and headspace to nurture our precious relationships. Psychologically, Shabbos offers us respite from the pressures and demands of modern life, refreshing and restoring us so that we can face the world anew each week. Spiritually, Shabbos helps us reconnect to G-d, to our soul, to our sense of meaning and purpose in life. And vitally, it empowers us to inspire our children with what it means to have a Jewish home.

Then it occurred to me – why not use the model of Couch to 5K to help those who want to keep Shabbos? Why not map out an incremental process, a step-by-step journey to keeping Shabbos in full every week? Shabbos Project 2.0 was born – the Journey to 25 hours.

This year, The Shabbos Project is about starting this journey. It’s a journey of becoming emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually fit by keeping a part of Shabbos every week.

Essentially, the Journey to 25 hours works exactly like the Couch to 5K app. It’s a step-by-step programme that you can do, incrementally, at your own pace, to reach this amazing goal of being able to keep Shabbos every week. The programme divides up Shabbos into manageable parts. Every Shabbos, you keep a part of Shabbos. The same part every week. And when you’re ready, you add another part.

One example is to keep the part of Shabbos from candle-lighting until kiddush. The moment the candles are lit just before sunset, everyone powers down their phones. The family has a chance to bond and connect, to walk to shul together, to relax together at home, and enjoy that piece of time that’s so tranquil and special.

Another part of Shabbos is from kiddush to bensching. Can you imagine an entire Friday night meal when no one is on their phones, with the entire family present? No one’s running out. The car keys are down. And everybody is there to bond and connect. To connect with Hashem through kiddush and hamotzi and bensching. To connect with our kids through the special blessings for children. To connect with everyone over good food, conversation, and words of Torah wisdom. It can be so magnificent.

These are just two examples. The 25 hours of Shabbos are made up of eight distinct parts. You can start with as many as you like – even with just one – and progress from there. Over the weeks and months that follow, keep adding more parts. Eventually, you’ll build up the fitness to keep all of Shabbos, the full 25 hours.

The most important thing is that whatever you take on, do it every week, and when you do it, go all in. Don’t dilute the experience or try half measures. Doing it fully is the only way to access the incredible gifts Shabbos offers us.

Just start, and keep it going every week. This Shabbos Project, let’s resolve to take the gift of Shabbos with us into the year.

Let’s do it together. We’re ready for this next step as a community. To borrow another sporting reference – let’s just do it.

  • To join the Journey to 25 hours, sign up using this email address: and the chief rabbi will send you a copy of his new book: A Day to Create Yourself when it’s available to offer you extra inspiration and support on your journey.

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