Differentiating Time and Space: Spiritual Advice for Those Working from Home during COVID-19

Rabbi Rex Perlmeter shares advice on differentiating between sacred and non-sacred spaces while working from home while sheltering in place.

As my colleagues are well aware, Jewish tradition makes a very big deal of drawing distinctions, at least in the earthly realm in which we currently reside. I’m not sure I’ve ever understood as fully the vital importance of that capacity as now, when most of us seem to be living in undifferentiated time and space; in time, in response to seemingly unending information about and need to respond to COVID-19, and in space, most of us are now relegated, to shut-in status (and what a rare opportunity for growing compassionate understanding!).

We eat, sleep, work, play, laugh and cry all in the same space. Perhaps you too have read advice suggesting that during this time of working at home, it is wise to pick a designated space—not the bedroom, if possible—set aside for work. I invite us to experience this as an act of mitzvah for performing the work of mitzvah to which you are committed. Make a space, sacred to the work and, equally, designate the rest of your space as sacred to non-work. After all, that too is holy (think Shabbat). And, while thinking Shabbat, to the extent possible, you may find it helpful to draw similar distinctions in time—again, to the extent possible. We need a little Shabbat, in space and time, every day.

Finally, consider the possibility of ritualizing the entry into and out of work space/time; a havdalah of sorts, in which to prepare yourself for what is required and offered distinctly in each of the two spaces. Perhaps take a moment to meditate, or offer a kavanah or a blessing—something that will help you to remember the sacred space/time of work and the sacred space and time of laying down that work and allowing yourself…to breathe. And may you be strengthened in and for all the good you are and you do.

Rabbi Rex D Perlmeter, LSW, is the CCAR Special Advisor for Member Care and Wellness.

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