Perspective is key: Taking small steps to acknowledge and reflect is a good start to honoring Shabbat.
By Jillian Lesson
Over the past few years, my interest in Judaism has grown tremendously. I think that this is the result of my family becoming involved in various Jewish organizations and my recent enrollment in a Jewish school.
As I now go to school with people who are all over the spectrum of Judaism, my perspective has widened. I would have said that I was a Reform Jew growing up, but in reality, I lived a pretty secular life. Besides going to a Jewish preschool, attending Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and going to Sunday school about once a year (sorry, Mom and Dad), Judaism had little to do with my everyday life.
The first time I opened my eyes to observant Judaism was when I attended a Shabbat dinner at an Orthodox family’s home in 2012. It gave me a true perspective on what it was like to be observant. Before this evening, I didn’t think Shabbat was anything but a Friday night dinner with challah and some wine (or grape juice for us minors).
As I started joining families at their Shabbat dinners and learning about Shabbat in school, I became intrigued by this weekly experience. I told myself that I would like to try to become shomer Shabbat, which means I would keep Shabbat. From sunset Friday to sunset Saturday I wouldn’t be able to drive, use my phone, cook, or even turn off the light switch. Well, needless to say, it is easier said than done.
I think the intention behind taking a day to recharge and reflect in order to separate one week from the next is a beautiful one. This year has been full of growth and of trying to improve my life and myself. Nevertheless, there have been many points where life feels like I’m a little hamster running on a hamster wheel, in a constant cycle of routine with little time to think and free my busy mind.
To me, keeping Shabbat would mean taking a day for myself to step off that wheel and breathe. It would be an opportunity for me to reflect on the past week and look forward to the next week. But most importantly, Shabbat would help me to appreciate what is right in front of me.
Without connection to my phone and the internet, I would live in the moment and focus on the people in my house and the books on my shelf. Not getting in a car for the day would mean not racing to get anywhere or longing to be somewhere else, but instead fully experiencing where I am.
Although I resonate with the idea of Shabbat, committing to keeping it has proven to be quite a challenge for me. I’ve been asking for advice from my many friends who have either grown up keeping Shabbat or have started to do so recently.
All of them have advised me to take small steps. These small steps can be as simple as wearing a certain necklace or eating a piece of challah every Saturday. Yet, even the small steps can sometimes feel challenging, because I get so stuck on the hamster wheel of life and forget that I am able to jump off of it, even if the jump is a small one!
Acknowledging that this day is different from the rest is the best way for me to begin. Once that becomes more of a routine for me, I can try to take more steps, like turning off
of my phone on Friday night, lighting the Shabbat candles, or just sitting and reading a book for awhile.
Different observances of Judaism have different beliefs regarding Shabbat, but we are all Jewish! Shabbat doesn’t just have to be seen as something only an observant Jew does. We also don’t have to keep Shabbat completely in order for it to play a part in our lives. Separating the day from the rest and taking a moment to reflect, breathe and stay present – that is what Shabbat is about.
I encourage everyone to bring Shabbat into their lives. Our goals are going to be different, but we can all benefit from taking a rest from the hustle of our week. So next Shabbat, try to add or subtract something into your day that will differentiate it from the rest. Try to keep Shabbat in your own way. Good luck, and Shabbat Shalom!