I recall learning, during the span when my family and I were transitioning from the secular world to the observant one, that religious folks’ schedule, that is their weekly date books, their temporal rhythms, in general, revolved not around government holidays, around the number of inches of precipitation that accumulate in any seven day period, or around a month’s celebration of sports, but around shabbat. More specifically, my teachers’ week consisted not of “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” but “of First Day (after Shabbat), Second Day (after Shabbat), Third Day (after shabbat), Fourth Day (after shabbat), Fifth Day (after shabbat), Sixth Day (after Shabbat), and of Shabbat.”
Years later, when I was living my teachers’ less externally-biased tempo, I, too, found myself enveloped by thinking that made shabbat the metronome of my week. What’s more, as a mom and as my family’s Chief-of-Bottle-Washing-Menu-Making and-Performing-or-Supervising-Other-Good-and-Important-Matters, I found myself timing our household’s tasks per a shabbatcentric calendar.
More specifically, Sunday, the First day (after shabbat), transformed, for me, from the day when I was free of classroom duties and of other incentives for setting an early alarm and from the day devoted to catching up on publishing deadlines, given the opportunities afforded by the above, into an ordinary work and school day and into the basis for my shabbat plans. Guests were invited or confirmed on Sunday. Menus and shopping lists were created. Family members were encouraged to work on Dvrai Torah, on mealtime or other time speeches on Torah.
Monday, the Second Day (after shabbat), was given over to finishing incomplete Sunday tasks. Also, Monday often found me inventorying my freezer and cabinets to determine which foods might not have to be included in my preparation schedule. By Monday, children were getting asked about their Lemudei Kodesh, their religious studies, for the week; I meant to determine who might have something relevant to say about Torah portions.
Tuesday, the Third Day (after shabbat) was shopping. By buying my necessities on the Third Day, I avoided the large crowds in the stores favored by religious shoppers [who tended to make the greater part of their purchases on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively the Fourth and Fifth Days (after shabbat)]. When the groceries came home, triage began. Vegetables got blanches and frozen. Soups were cooked and frozen. Raw meat and raw fish were frozen. I began to get nudgy, as well, about sons and daughters’ preparation of tableside teachings.
Wednesday, the Fourth Day (after shabbat) was devoted to my initial house cleaning. Wednesday was also when I took stock of linens to determine whether or not I had a sufficient number of clean sheets, pillowcases, blankets and towels for all of my family’s expected sleepover guests. By Wednesday, too, I was firming up, too, who, among our visitors and family members would give over learning at each meal.
Thursday, the Fifth Day (after shabbat) was devoted to the greater part of meal preparation. Except for extremely perishable items such as salads, all foodstuffs were readied on this day. Negotiations were held with children over whose bedroom would hold guests. My husband prepared his final notes for table talk.
By Friday, the Sixth Day (after shabbat), the party in my home had already begun. The kids would push me out the door, saying they would benefit at least as much as me if I spent my Friday morning at the women’s gym. My boys and girls liked to listen to music (!) while they checked, washed, sliced, diced and seasoned our fruits and vegetables. I’d concede their space, and then further contribute to family peace and to shabbat delight by bringing home some delectable for Friday’s lunch. Depending on where we were living, a “delectable” could range from takeout potato pastries to red pears. Fresh flowers also came home with me.
shabbat, of course, was one long twenty-five hour celebration of man’s relationship to Hashem, of Hashem’s kindness in giving us shabbat, of family and friends, of being able to trust Hashem, knowing if He said not to work, not working would be okay, and of much, much more. shabbat was always a taste of Gan Eden.
Years have passed. These days, my time keeping is still shabbatcentric. My offspring have, however, grown up significantly and soon, I anticipate, will be building homes of their own. Although they still encourage me to make friends with elliptical bikes and free weights on Friday mornings, they cook up their own luncheon treats, creating avocado sushi or broiled sweet potato fries while they dress the lettuce and dice the tomatoes.
My husband, B”H, commands an increasingly larger and larger treasury of ideas about the weekly Torah readings. He dovetails short speeches about upcoming holidays, about guests, and about other pertinent topics into his shabbat talks. He gives us gentle mussar, instruction for personal growth, in the laws of shabbat and encourages us to be careful in the speech we use with each other.
As for me, I have learned that if I shop on Thursday, rather than on Tuesday, there will still be chickens, gefilte fish, carrots, and raisins left in the stores. I still try to plan on Sunday, but don’t freak out, as much, if I am not working on my guest list until Monday. Occasionally, when I’m overwrought, I even skip Wednesday’s shabbat-relevant laundry and ask visitors to bring their own linens. It still suits me to cook as much as I can on Thursday, so that my family goes into shabbat with peace. Likewise, I still hold to buying flowers n Friday.
It’s good to live my days around shabbat. It’s good to regularly contemplate, the elevated ending that comes with each week.