A striking individual wrote the words above when speaking of a beautiful day in the Judaic week. Shabbat. Abraham Joshua Heschel, if you’re looking for some deeply interesting reads check out some of his books. In particular I have been reading “The Sabbath” and I have found it intrinsically beautiful. Like touching a part of another individuals pure love of their own Jewish soul.
For some who may be unaware, particularly because it appears so frequently, this day, is above all days the most important. What does it mean? What is Heschel is saying here?
“The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man. God is not in things of space, but in moments of time.” and for that matter, why above all else (save for one day) is this day so important? I have sought to explore this myself.
During my journey I had set a goal in mind to begin alternating the way we conduct Shabbat. Generally we spend our Friday nights immersed with our Congregation. With love, liturgy, community, and light. However, in my process I have met so many that, growing up, missed out on the home experience of Shabbat. Since, for a long time, our little guy at least is going to have to spend his time in the baby sitting room, we decided to alternate weeks at services outside the house and do some weeks at home so that we have home observance too. Myself having never conducted the Shabbat rituals at home before, and ever the perfectionist, wanted to have EVERYTHING in order, and be so well versed it would be shocking. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be the least bit surprised by this at this point lol.
Of course, none of the things I had planned for the first time I did this happened at all. You know what though? It could not have felt more perfect, save for my husband being with us. I always had this idea in my head that I’d make this incredibly elaborate meal, that we’d have all the things we needed, the right table cloth, and even the havdalah set I have had my eye on to properly finish off Shabbat at it’s end.
Instead it was the first Shabbat after Chanukah. I missed very much the warmth that the candles brought, and the reflection that sparked inside me for those nights I will absolutely never forget. I missed my husband and was exhausted physically from driving around for all the hustle and bustle a Jewish holiday affair like that brings. I needed rest. I needed to stop. I NEEDED Shabbat, and if I’m honest, as my life progresses with Judaism as such an important part of it, I need those spiritual breaks more and more.
That, is why it is such an important day. We need that rest, just as there was rest in the creation of the world. I think even more so in such a weary world where it’s so hard to just rest. We are bombarded with so much all of the time from all directions all week long. It’s really difficult to set aside time to just cease. As a matter of fact, and as a side tidbit, the Hebrew for Shabbat, שַׁבָּת, has the root of three main Hebrew letters that actually mean to cease. I find Hebrew to be such an incredible language so everything about it and the meaning behind it to me becomes more and more meaningful as time goes by as well.
As I turned on music in Hebrew, made up my chicken thighs with their lovely spices filling the air of my kitchen, and my son helped me make the Challah, I stopped as I often do and drank in what was going on. As Heschel said, God is in the moments of time. I have to agree that is true to some degree. I feel God in a myriad of places, but there are many times that I know there is that presence. Watching the Challah rise and bake. Setting the table, lighting the candles, singing, doing Kiddush and HaMotzi, chanting the blessings over my sweet son and eating a meal with him, doing all of these things knowing that as he grows he will have all these as memories. My heart rose to new levels of joy that I’ve never known. I relaxed in a way I’ve never known as well. Shabbat was spent laughing, playing legos and puzzles, reading; both Jewish kids books and my own Torah study, and resting in the most positive ways I could. We marked the end of Shabbat with songs, and in our own way.
One day we’ll have all the right things, one day it’ll be more “proper” but one thing I have learned is it’s not about being perfect. Adonai does not expect perfection. We did all we could with what we had to show and we gave our praise to the one who brought us forth to this Earth, and to this moment, in this place. We will continue to do so at every step. I am so utterly proud of our family. Giving of myself all that I have is indeed probably the most important thing, or at least I’d like to hope so. As we are able, we’ll get better.
Is the Sabbath the presence of Adonai in the world open to us? I’d like to think that we have multiple facets of contact and presence with our creator at any given time. Certainly though, on that Shabbat, and the ones since, I have felt even more of a stirring and closer connection in my heart.
I know that I have my beautiful family, and have. I have lived with a darkness in my past before, and an ever aching feeling that I was alone in this world. I no longer fear the darkness, for I am a child of the light of HaShem and no matter how dark my world my seem or get I am never really alone. I never have been even when I didn’t know.
I end this post to you all with two of my favorite Shabbat songs. Thank you for sharing in my journey.