Shabbat… Alone vs in community

I spent last night and today in my “old” community – Tikvat Israel congregation in Rockville, MD. I stayed with friends who generously offered me and the boys home hospitality so that we could participate in a family oriented Friday evening service including dinner at the synagogue.

I arrived at the synagogue at 4:25 pm Friday night, just at candle-lighting time (the earliest time of the year, since Hanukkah starts this week), turned off my phone, and entered Shabbat fully for the next 25 hours.

We enjoyed a lovely service led by the kids. Ate a fantastic meal, that I didn’t have to cook. Had wonderful conversations with people I hadn’t seen in months. And walked home in the brisk winter air. At home, we played games before going to bed, and slept deeply and well, without the usual intrusion of technology that is often pervading our lives these days.

Saturday morning was leisurely, and I ended up walking to services on my own, as one boy stayed home to play with our hosts’ kids, and the other boy was sleeping in. Services themselves were familiar and reassuring…I love my new congregation in Baltimore, but I do miss the familiarity of the place I’ve been a member for 25 years.

At the Kiddush gathering after services, I again had conversations with friends I hadn’t connected with in months. And when we were walking back home, it was snowing!

The kids spent the afternoon outside. I had planned to run, but instead got my exercise walking back to my old house several times to get winter clothes for kids. And the day passed pleasantly in conversation with my hosts’and their neighbors… all good friends.

I didn’t turn my phone on until after 5:30 pm, when we had completed the havdalah prayers to bid farewell to the Sabbath and welcome the new week.

As I admitted to my hosts during the day, when I’m on my own in Shabbat, without the boys, I find myself slipping out of Shabbat mode and resuming the more routine weekday activities involving various technologies. It’s tough to do Shabbat properly in isolation. Community is so important, at least in Judaism.

So, I am once again reminded that I need to seek out community to help reinforce my best habits and avoid the call of temptation.

Shavua tov – good week!

שבוה טוב