On Fridays, from sunrise, when the small children of our neighborhood ring our doorbell, to inform us that it’s not yet candle lighting time, until midafternoon, when those same wee ones arrive to borrow eggs and tissues, my community is busy anticipating and preparing for the arrival of Shabbot. As Jewish people, as the nation guided by G-d and living through Torah, our greatest wish, come the end of the week, is to reify the parameters of our sanctioned worship, to dwell correctly in the glory that is the Day of Rest, and to have enough challah to feed all of the seminary girls and yeshiva boys who might be visiting.
Shabbot, especially, remains a time for disregarding the increasing gap among social strata, for holding fast to personal mores, for celebrating Klal Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, and for asking, once more, that Hashem both provoke our personal growth as well as sustain us. This special portion of the week loudly intones, in its select actions and in its stringent prohibitions, that we ought not to take for granted the impact of our thoughts and deeds and that we, concurrently, direct our energies toward getting closer to or toward otherwise better serving The Boss as well as toward better assisting other people.
Consider, for a moment, the alternative; unidentifiable, unacknowledged, unclassifiable aches felt, has v’shalom, deep in our neshemot. If we don’t cease our labors, if we fail to deck first our inner selves and only thereafter our bodies and our tables in finery, or if we reduce our Shabbot prayers to habitulized mumbling, we are bound to have bitter results and to feel an internal keeling.
There are communities, on this globe, sadly, where children are little more than cheap help, where elders pick through dumpsters for sustenance, and where strangers are passed, unwelcomed, from door to door ( instead of being offered hospitality). In such places, the weekly practice of refraining from mundane activities is missing or is forgotten. In such neighborhoods, as noticed by even the most liberal of Jews, residents lack the relevance and power of regular peacefulness in their lives. Cause and effect cycle there.
In view of that undesirable practice, in view of our cultural heritage, and, most importantly, in view of the fact that we were commanded to treat Shabbot as a day apart from the other days of the week, the remainder of us run to trade our fresh or lingering psychic anguish for e the relief that is Shabbot. Accordingly, we welcome the Shabbot Queen with song, with concord, and with prayer. We dwell, ever so temporarily, as it were, with angels. We share our increased tranquility with our families, our friends, and our guests.
Whereas this day of renewal can not, for instance, restore to life the friend’s dad who died, whereas this day of Blessed unity can not, by itself, reform the fellow who beats his wife, and whereas this day of deepened insights can not pull back onto the derech the gal who neglects her children to the point that they are literally dirty and starving, our “communications” to Shemyim, wrought by our mindful Shabbot choices can, nonetheless, negotiate powerful ends. Our Shabbot exclamations to The Almighty can intercede on our behalf per various goings on between us and Hashem because Shabbot does endow us with a surfeit of spiritual riches.
If we avail ourselves of Shabbot’s bonuses, we can enhance our rest, our purpose, our emotional investments, our love, our pleasure, our awareness and our direction. By being receptive to this weekly twenty-five hour taste of heaven, we can, additionally, uncover a little more of the celestial truth.
Locally, that is, in my home, the positives, which feed my dear ones during Shabbot, in turn, resulting my family feeling rejuvenated and reinspired. By the time that we chant the Havdallah blessings, we are no longer the same collective that sang Adon Olam a mere day earlier. We are beings with more than heightened sensitivity; we are beings who care, until that next time the muck of day to day living pulls us down, about repairing the world, about adding the one straw that will close the levee to bad choices and fortify the stopbank that retains goodness.
Given that each and every one of us is responsible for elucidating, for ourselves, the value of Shabbot, it is more than useful, in fact, quite necessary, to engage, with full intention, the ways and means indigenous to the Day of Rest. To miss this joyful celebration is be at loss. To accept it is to be elevated to unimaginable spheres.
As for myself, I hope, that in preparing for every Shabbot, for the rest of my life, I will continue on with at least part of my current ritual of: saving the cholent from burning, smiling at Computer Cowboy while he sweeps our floors, kissing my sons and daughters, and then escorting home the handful of local children who inevitably turned up in our kitchen, in our salon, or on the sidewalk in front of our home to smell, to taste, and to see the energy that transitions us from mundane to sublime.