I truly look forward to Friday nights. I used to sometimes look forward to Friday nights, and this was usually dependent upon shaky plans to “go out,” or have some kind of fun that would wash away the stresses of the departing week. Weekends, especially as a younger man, were usually a letdown, and I always craved something with deeper meaning. I never looked forward to Friday nights with any sort of consistent sense of holiness and gratitude. I now look forward to the beginning of Shabbat.
The 25 hours of Shabbat beginning on Friday night are now a time for me to reflect, pray, unwind, and surround myself with other Jews who are celebrating. The Torah speaks of Shabbat numerous times, and the holiday falls in line with the pinnacle of God’s creation of the Universe. On Shabbat, many Jews refrain from work (this varies depending upon level of observance and strict adherence to halacha). In my personal experience, one of the most beautiful aspects of Shabbat is that it is a time when I can truly take a step back and immerse myself in the Holy.
When I first started observing Shabbat, I decided that I would take Friday night off from doing, and stressing over, any school work. The thought of me not ruminating about tasks unfinished felt like a logical impossibility. Upon entering the Temple, and engaging weekly in the Kabbalat Shabbat services, I have found it easy to turn off my “working” mind, and simply enjoy welcoming the Sabbath. From welcoming the Sabbath Bride via the singing of Lecha Dodi, to remembering those passed via the Mourner’s Kaddish, Everything about the Schul on Shabbat has helped me to relax my anxious mind, and elevate it to a different level. The oneg after services is always a wonderful time of socializing, schmoozing, and noshing with other Jews that my family and I have come to truly cherish. Just imagining the Rabbi reciting the Kiddush over the wine and Motzi over the Challah brings a slight smile to my face as I type these words. After our family leaves Temple, we always go home and light our own Shabbat candles. We sing the blessing over the candles as a family, and we have a newer tradition that I feel is so very special. Cam (our 5-year-old) lifts up our Kiddush cup (I think he is imitating the Rabbi, and it’s amazing) and we all chant the Kiddush together. Sometimes I hover in the kitchen for a couple of minutes and bask in the light from the candles. I try to remind myself to be thankful for the creation of these traditions while they are happening before going to bed. Shabbat has become an important part of our family’s life, and I am ever grateful for that.
One thing I am not doing on Shabbat anymore is worrying about whether or not I have to finish research for a paper, or complete the reading for an assignment that might be due soon. I also try not to think too much about my job during the hours of Shabbat. This actually took my mind a lot less time to adjust to than I thought it would…and trust me, I am someone who knows how to ruminate! You can ask my wife if you have any doubts.
There are many Jews who strictly observe halacha and refrain from handling muktzeh, driving, cooking, or even using electrical appliances and turning lights on and off during Shabbat. I believe that however one observes Shabbat (It is a very personal choice) that there exists an inherently mystically resplendent quality in its very observance. In a world that cannot stop thinking about apps, upgrades, snaps, and statuses, Shabbat feels frozen in a capsule of holiness that can mobilize with the time you happen to be in.
How do you observe Shabbat? I would love for you to share any unique traditions or methods of observance, as I believe that all are wonderful and so very worth it.
Shavua Tov and Shalom,