This past Shabbat was quite different from previous ones, which was rather useful in terms of figuring out what precisely makes it feel like Shabbat to me. It was full of people, activities, and foods that we love – just not in a typical Shabbat-type way.
We had Shabbat dinner chez my parents along with some guests who have recently arrived from India.
(Interrupting here to say – when we have non-Jewish guests at the Shabbat table, which at my parents’ house happens reasonably often, we’re often hesitant to do too much explanation of the blessings and rituals. Is this the deep-seated Jewish avoidance of even a whiff of proselytizing? Or do we just fear that our guests aren’tthat interested? Non-Jews, can you pipe up here?)
By the time we got home it was late, the kids went to bed, and Mr. December and I read the newspaper for a while before turning in. I must say that reading the front section doesn’t feel very Shabbos-y, but all the fluffy parts in the middle really do. Know what else makes me feel all relaxed and warm and fuzzy? Getting to finish a whole crossword puzzle in one sitting.
The kids gave us a lovely gift this morning – they slept in until 10:00 a.m. When I went to get them up and dressed, they just wanted to make a big bed on the floor of their room and snuggle in it… so we did. Mr. December and I both hung out with them until someone declared their hunger and we adjourned to the table for some cereal and watermelon.
Good friends of ours (not Jewish) invited us over for lunch, so we took challah and wine, loaded up the car, and trekked out to Mississauga (these are very good friends. I wouldn’t drive out to Mississauga, even midweek, for just anybody.) We said the blessing over the challah and enjoyed a really tasty meal. Then we stayed for the next four hours, doing nothing really, playing with the kids and chatting amongst ourselves. That was lovely. The whole thing felt very shabbosdik (sabbath-y) despite the long drive.
At this point we went to my parents’ house and dropped the two older kids off for a sleepover. We put them to bed and came home, and that was pretty much it for shabbat this week.
So, what worked this week? Spending a long stretch of time with friends, not needing to rush anywhere or leave early, is definitely on my to-do-on-Shabbat list for the future. The long drive was a bummer, but these friends are worth it. Hanging out with the kids and just watching them play – that’s a keeper. Crossword puzzle and reading fluffy newspaper content? Yes. Reading the front section of the paper? No. It will keep until Sunday.
What didn’t work this week? Well, it felt like a restful family day, but I’m not sure that I felt any kind of holiness other than dinner with my parents. I also had a minor dilemma about what to wear – I tried a few skirts, but nothing seemed right for just hanging out at friends, so I went with comfy-but-attractive jeans – and ended up concluding that even though the jeans were comfortable and flattering (and clean,) I felt less thanshabbosdik in them.
Oh, and a note about last week, which included a very small shabbat dinner at home, a visit from (non-Jewish) friends in the morning, a four-hour nap for all, and a seudah shlisheet party at our house with three other families: I loved the lack of car travel, the singing, and the fact that the kids had other kids to play with. Oh, and the napping. There should always be time for ashabbos shluff (sabbath sleep.)
Here’s the list of my self-defined guidelines so far.
It feels most like Shabbat when I:
- Spend time with the children doing whatever they want to do, on their schedule.
- Prepare most of the food and drinks ahead of time.
- Save some special toys only for Shabbat.
- Wear dressy Shabbat clothes, even around the house.
- Spend time outside.
- Spend time with friends, either arranged before Shabbat or spontaneously.
- Have a guilt-free nap.
It feels least like Shabbat when I:
- Have access to my computer.
- Need to travel long distances.
- Have a rigid schedule for the day.
- Use the telephone to make plans.
- Exercise with a goal in mind (i.e. weight loss)
- Have to cook or otherwise prepare stuff during the day.
There we have it. A common theme that is emerging for me is that it seems to be most important to enjoy the moment, rather than engage in planning or preparation for the future (near or far.) Could this be the working definition I’m looking for?