It’s Friday, and life this week has been full of joy, and sorrow, and everything in between. My life is full right now. The Genius Husband’s grandmother passed away yesterday. As much as she will be missed it doesn’t seem tragic when one who has lived as long as her is finally laid to rest.
I wanted to write about Shabbat this Friday and what it means to me and it’s not a bad segue to go from the death of an old woman who lived a full life to this celebration of life and God’s goodness. I’m not even Jewish, I was raised Christian which is why it actually makes total sense to me to keep Jewish traditions since they are commanded in the same Bible that I grew up reading. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy was right there before don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet, honor your parents, etc. (I will now refrain from going off on a theological tangent involving complicated metaphors about grafting olive trees and stuff.) But we never kept Shabbat when I was growing up. First of all we had no idea how, and second most Christians think not working on Sunday is keeping the commandment. Then I started attending the Shabbat at my in-law’s house and realized that it can be so much deeper than I was aware. Here are some of the things that it has come to mean to me since we’ve been keeping it.
Shabbat is about anticipation, about having something to look forward to the rest of the week. My children ask me every morning if it’s Friday yet, because they love Shabbat. They love going to Beema’s house and seeing all of their aunts and uncles and usually spending the night there, they like that they get dessert and a special dinner, the lit candles, the blessings from their father, and retelling in pictures the Parsha or weekly reading from the Torah. Right now we are reading about Moses and the boy took a long reed he found on one of our walks with him so he could recount for everyone the mighty deeds that Hashem(G-d) did through Moses staff. It was a lot of fun to watch him retell it with such dramatic detail.
For me this anticipation also involves getting my house in order. Before sundown on Friday I try to get it as orderly as possible around here so that the atmosphere is peaceful and relaxing for a day. Also because Shabbat is my break too, from housework and cooking, so I get everything ready before. This kind of anticipation causes me to be more organized and more motivated to get to tasks in a timely fashion through out the week because I have a deadline of sorts and I know I will get a break. It also involves thinking about special food to make, which is something I love to do, planning dessert with the kids, and a break from our everyday routine. On Friday morning we make the special Challah bread, which is only something we do once a week. It’s kind of like the excitement before a major holiday, the preparation, anticipation, and change from the mundane. If this were all that Shabbat did for us it would be enough for me to continue it but there’s more.
Shabbat is gratitude. At the beginning of the meal the men say the blessings over the bread, and the wine. The words of blessing remind us that all that feeds us comes from Hashem who causes the grain to ripen and the grapes to grow, who made and sustains the earth.
Shabbat is family. It is a time set aside to enjoy each other without the usual distractions. No one is running out the door to go anywhere after dinner, every one rests. The meal is leisurely and unhurried, and the conversation is edifying, most of the time. And then there are the blessings, father’s calling out of their children the strengths and gifts that they see, and asking for them that they receive what they lack as well. The love of family is evident in every face and moment.
Shabbat is rest, is peace. Somehow, the moment I light the candles all that was rushing comes to a pause, there is stillness that enters in, even in the kids and we can feel the change as we enter the holy set apart time of the week.
Shabbat is a celebration of life, a way to suck a little more joy out of it and hold onto the good. It’s a Jewish attitude and assumption perfectly embodied in the toast “le chaim” to life.
Shabbat is abundance. On Shabbat we set out the good dishes, and the pretty tablecloths, we wear our good clothes, we make the best of what we can afford and we celebrate the many ways in which we are blessed.
Shabbat is remembrance. We read the Torah, we remember the goodness of Hashem, the ways he took care of his people in the past and kept his promises and instructed them.
Shabbat is light, music, laughter, joy, love.
It is a moment, a pause in my life that enriches it and helps me to remember how good the life I have is. It truly is a blessing from Hashem. I am so glad that we keep it, and that G-d gave it to us to enjoy.