Missing Shabbat

It’s Saturday, which means its Shabbat (the Hebrew word meaning “sabbath”), and I’m using a computer.

My husband and I started becoming more “Shabbat observant” a few years ago. It had been a slow evolution from originally just lighting candles on Friday night, reciting “Baruch ata HaShem, Elokeinu melech haolam, borei p’ri hagafen” (Blessed are you, lord our G-d, sovereign of the universe, who brings forth the fruit of the vine), and having a nice dinner (and going to services on Saturday morning about once a month), to now, when we do actually turn off our computers/phones/etc, we don’t drive the car, we don’t answer the phone, and we don’t turn on the tv or radio. A huge factor that influenced our much more observant habits was the addition of our two boys. We were also influenced by our friends over at S-Central (she blogs at Just Your Average Adventure), who we will never match, but can keep on trying.

I’ve come to really treasure Shabbat. It is, after all, referred to as a delight in many shabbat songs, and to be treasured.

When we first started observing more of shabbat more regularly, it seemed like a punishment.  The focus seemed to naturally be on the restrictions, and there didn’t seem to be much positive aspects to rejoice in.

But now, I really miss the opportunity to “turn off” and disconnect.  I think, especially with the torrent of information that is coming at us all the time during the week, having a time and space to reconnect to family, nature, and one’s own thoughts is increasingly valuable.  And, this weekend, attending my work’s retreat, took that opportunity away.

Thank goodness there’s always next week to get another chance to disconnect and reconnect.

7 thoughts on “Missing Shabbat

  1. Gayle Opie says:

    Oh, I'd be good at that — questioning stuff. One of my favorite kinds of discussions, especially when there is no absolute answer that someone can close the discussion just by saying, "There's no explanation, you just have to do it". That always seems like a cop out when you can't think of a good explanation.

  2. Janaki says:

    Gayle, you'd make a good Jew!! We have wrestled with these questions over the years. When Ron and I first met, he was very dedicated to riding horses as a hobby. He would ride on saturday (usually a good day to ride, for a working person), and as I was studying to convert, I would argue with him that he couldn't do this!! One argument that I learned was that not only should we humans rest on the sabbath, but we should also allow our domestic animals to rest, as well. Ron would argue that he believed that the horse enjoyed the rides as much as the rider, and that isn't Shabbat supposed to be about pleasure and relaxation?
    An activity that presents an ongoing issue for me is the playing of musical instruments – there's a whole article on that here: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ritual/
    It's a controversial topic, and some of the arguments are esoteric, but I tend to lean toward the more conservative interpretations, and so I don't play my flute or guitar or the piano on Shabbat.
    At the end of the day, the arguments aren't necessarily pragmatic ones, such as what is relaxing for the individual personally, but what are the meanings and interpretations of the activities in the historic and metaphysical context.
    Each person ends up drawing their own lines across which they will not cross, and those lines, for most people I know, tend to fluctuate in one direction or another over time.
    One author that I'm a big fan of, Shalom Auslander (http://www.shalomauslander.com/index.html), describes his evolution from growing up in a strictly orthodox home to living a much less observant life as an adult. He's very funny about it!!

    1. Gayle Opie says:

      If by "good Jew" you mean having a penchant for getting around rules, then maybe you're right, But I probably wouldn't have made a very observant one. I would have made a good Jesuit or lawyer, as well. My mind seems to question authority at every turn and figures out ways to get around the rules while trying to stay out of trouble. Some rules just seem so arbitrary and I feel a need for logic and common sense so getting around them just seems to come naturally to me.

      1. Janaki says:

        not necessarily getting around the rules, but questioning the rules themselves!! jewish tradition is full of that, and one thing i've always loved about all of these issues of tradition and observance (there's a distinction in Judaism between "minhag" = custom/tradition and "halacha" = Law), is that everything's open to question. i've never (yet) met a rabbi who said "that's a mystery" or "there's no explanation, you just have to do it because it's the law".

  3. Gayle Opie says:

    Hi Janaki, Interesting article but now, as a non-jew, I'm looking forward to an article about what you CAN do on Shabbat.

    1. Janaki says:

      Ok, Gayle, excellent point!! And one that in our earlier years of not being as observant, I also asked. I have that image of a little boy in one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (was it her pa as a child? Or Almanzo?) having to sit still all day on Sunday because of the restrictive religious observance of some more fundamentalist types.

      So, for us, a big part of the joy of the day comes from socializing with our community. Sometimes we manage to plan ahead, and invite a family over who have kids that play well with our guys. Sometimes we are invited to other homes. This summer and last, especially with the hot weather, our pool was a big draw!

      Since the kids can't use electronics, they wind up running around outside, playing Legos, making forts with the sofa cushions, and all kinds of imaginary play.

      But, even when it's just we for at home, the day has a nice slow rhythm, with time for reading, or singing songs, playing board games. There are a few restrictions that we have learned to avoid – writing/drawing are prohibited activities (there are 39 specified forbidden acts, which, according Judaism 101: Shabbat, "all of which are types of work that were needed to build the sanctuary". (Scroll about half-way down the page I linked to, to see the entire list). Cooking is forbidden, and yet one is expected to have the best meals of the week during this 25-hour period, so the requirement of those who keep the Sabbath strictly (termed "shomer shabbat" – guarding the sabbath), prepare all food ahead of time, and have a special warming plate, or an oven set on low to rewarm food. We have not yet managed that trick in our crazy busy schedule, but I can see the appeal.

      The other aspect that I like about the prohibition on writing (although, as you've probably seen, S loves to draw so much that it's a real hardship for him to stop drawing for a day) is that it reduces the temptation to work. I can still pick up a medical text or journal and read – no prohibition on that, although study is supposed to be centered on the Torah (bible), but there's nothing that specifically prohibits reading something of interest to one's career. One shouldn't read smut!!

      Does that help??

      1. Gayle Opie says:

        Very interesting. It does bring up a bunch of technical questions in my mind but that's just the way my mind works. I don't inundate you with all of them but the main one has to do with the drawing and writing stuff. I understand the idea of not doing work on the Shabbat but what if it is for relaxation. As with your son or say a draftsman who spends 5 days a week drawing straigh , purposeful lines at his job. Come the weekend, he likes to relax by drawing with curves and flights of fancy — artistic drawing, in other words. It is no longer work but a means to unwind from the mundane aspects of his job. As I said, technical questions — maybe nit-pcky questions.

        Anyway, I followed the link and it was an interesting article.

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