Notes on Shabbat Observance

Found In: Contemporary Shabbat Practice

Article

Observing Shabbat: Infinite Tiredness

"Somewhow during Shabbat my whole biochemistry seems to change. Friday night an awesome tiredness comes over me and it is a wonder if I don't fall asleep before dessert. Saturday afternoon I must take a nap; I know that I will not be able to function at a certain point if I don't sleep for at least a half an hour.

"It is as if in addition to the discrete observances I perform, like candlelighting and kiddush, dinner with family and friends, prayer, and study, my body itself has understood it is Shabbat. It enters a whole other state of being. Immense tiredness and infinite opportunity to rest. A tiredness different from the other days of the week. A mandate to sleep that is different.

"Before my days of keeping Shabbat, when Saturday was a day of simple pleasures, shopping and errands my body did not experience tiredness in the same way. It is as if the experience of Shabbat has reached beyond all its do's and don'ts to a preconscious state where Shabbat is being observed by my very bio-rhthyms."

"As someone who is committed to social justice, to ending oppression, I often feel that there is too much to do, too little time to fix it all, that I can't stop yet...And then Shabbat comes and with its arrival twenty-five hours in which I get to notice how beautiful the world is, how perfect it is, and that there is nothing that I need to do in that moment to change it. I am reminded that it is crucial for me to stop, to rest, to celebrate the beauty of the world, the richness of my relationships with family, friends and God. A time of noticing what is already right and whole and good rather than what isn't. And with that deep knowing, that inner quiet, I can go back out for the rest of the week and fight like hell."

"I stop. That's what Shabbat starts for me as, I stop from all the business. I take a shower or bath and put on clothes that are comfortable and special feeling. I sing, niggunim or songs from MIRAJ or sometimes Shlomo Carlebach. I also like to call people I miss and haven't had time to connect with in a while, to wish them Shabbat Shalom and catch up. And it's a time when I can relax and just enjoy being with my step-kids, not watching the clock and thinking about all the other things I should or could be doing."

"Before Shabbat, I treat myself by buying flowers for myself."

"I have to say this because for me it is an essential part of Shabbat. My favorite thing to do on Shabbat morning is to stay in bed with my lover and really spend time relishing her body, our bodies. We sometimes joke and call this our Shabbat morning prayer but it's not really a joke. Finding God and worshipping Her through the delight and attention we give and find in each other is an essential part of Shabbat holiness for me."

"I once heard a story about someone who converted to Judaism and as she was dunking into the mikveh she said, 'I now commit myself to being an observant Jew.' Her friends were a bit surprised. They knew she was committing to Judaism. But was she really going to be observant? The woman explained that for her an observant Jew is a Jew who always keeps her eyes open. She was committing to becoming someone who would consciously observe the world as a Jew. For me, this definition of observance is very liberating. Observing Shabbat begins with the decision to be conscious of Saturday as Shabbat, every hour of the day."

"For me, Shabbat is a day of do's and don'ts. It is a day to make kiddush, eat marvelous food (chocolate is a must), go to shul, read the newspaper, see my friends, and drink wine. It is also a day when I don't write, don't use electricity, don't spend money, and don't travel. Since I study Torah for classes during the week, I won't learn that same Torah over Shabbat. When I learn Torah, it has to be different than what I study during the week. I can't worry about anything I have to accomplish in the upcoming week, because I know that I can't do anything about finishing it. All the many do's and don'ts help me to mark this day as one of celebration of God, friends, and my self, a separation from the week's distractions."

"I'm interested in exploring the idea of Shabbat as breathing space. Giving ourselves space on Shabbat might enable us to experience some of what we can't allow ourselves to feel and think during the week."

"No matter how rushed I am in my preparations, I always shower right before Shabbat. My pre-Shabbat shower is unlike other showers of the week. I have wonderful smelling soap, shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel that I use only now. I shave my legs (usually the only time of the week I do this.). I put on different lotion. I also have special makeup (like a different color lipstick) which I put on for Shabbat. All of this helps me to enter Shabbat feeling more beautiful than I do at any other time of the week."

"In many ways, I try to make Shabbat a time for stillness. Before Shabbat I clean my room, put everything in its place. I don't want a mess distracting me. I turn off my stereo, shut down my computer, and turn on whichever lights I will need during Shabbat. Once I light the candles, I know I won't touch the lights again, and somehow this gives me a radical sense of separation from the week. What is dark will remain dark and what is light will remain light."