Friday, 21 September 2012

Reclaiming Shabbat

On Rosh Hashana morning, my rabbi at "Temple Sings all the Time and Won't Shut Up" spoke so eloquently of the demands that we place on ourselves in our daily routines, and the tethers that we choose to bind us to our technology. He challenged us as individuals and as a congregation to find new and modern ways to reclaim Shabbat; to find a bit of peace on that most sacred of days that speak to us in a modern context. He wasn't asking for greater synagogue participation (although that certainly would be nice), nor was he asking us to refrain and abstain with Halachic imperatives. Instead he was asking us to find meaning in Shabbat that would be relevant to each of us in a modern world, and then to share those experiences with the community.

Over the years, The Husband and I have attempted to find a balance for Shabbat. Often that has meant attendance at services or Torah study. Sometimes it means just sleeping in on Saturday morning. We have attempted to refrain from shopping and making appointments on the day, and a "Shabbos nap" is often a moral imperative. These small changes have allowed us to decompress from the craziness of the week, but we are both realists. Sometimes the outside world intrudes, and one or both of us finds ourselves enmeshed with frustratingly picayune tasks that we would love to leave until after the day, but cannot for whatever reason deems. When our rabbi delivered his sermon, I inherently knew he was speaking to me. How could I, in some small way, reclaim Shabbat for myself?

The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Shabbat Shuva, is one of the most difficult of the year for me. The exhaustion associated with the services of Rosh Hashana still lingers, and the preparations for the next Holy Day are intense. The business of synagogues doesn't shut down at the Holy Days. It is just gearing up! Meetings, preparations, rehearsals, new members events, B'nai Mitzvah, Sukkot, Simchat Torah....all require attention during these ten days. I have come to cherish this particular Shabbat, but unfortunately it is more often than not, a working day for me. This year, The Husband and I decided to take part of this day and do something just for us. We are spending our Friday evening not in the synagogue, but rather at a downtown club with friends listening to local musicians interpret the music of John Prine. (I love John Prine's music!) When we first arranged the date I have to admit that the idea of going on a Friday evening discomfited me tremendously. This is not the way I am used to spending Kabbalat Shabbat. But the more that I thought about it and the more that I delved into my rabbi's sermon, the more comfortable I became with the idea. I cannot think of a more appropriate Shabbat activity. I will be nourished artistically, spiritually, musically, and I will be surrounded by friends whom I adore. I will unplug, disconnect, relax, and honour the day of Shabbat with oneg (joy) and menucha (rest). Really, what could be more in keeping with the day?

I love this idea of reclaiming Shabbat, but I also need to say that I am a firm believer that the synagogue offers many outlets for doing just that. Try a Torah study when you drop your kids off for religious school instead of directly running out of the building. (Breakfast is included!!) Take in a family service or two with your kids. Come to a community Shabbat dinner with your family. These programs can offer gateways to more meaningful Shabbat observance. And then....try a hike on Shabbat afternoon, or settling in with a good book, or a video game with your sons. Or maybe....a visit to the Prine Shrine music night downtown. It just might nurture body and soul.

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