It’s Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Technically, religiously, halachic-ly (by Jewish law), I shouldn’t be writing, since writing constitutes work, and work is forbidden on the Sabbath. But I’m not that observant. I’m a spiritually observant Jew…but these days, despite the fact that I write about Shabbat and how to make it meaningful and spiritual, I’m having a bit of trouble even observing this weekly holiday – the most important Jewish holiday – at all.
You see, I have two teenagers. And those teenagers have activities – dance and synchronized swimming. These activities require them to go to practices and rehearsals often on Friday nights. And now that they are in high school, often their social life takes precedence over their spiritual or religious life. And since I don’t want them to hate Judaism or being Jewish, I don’t force them to come home for Shabbat dinner or to go to services on Friday night. (Ah well…I can’t remember when we made it to a Friday night service, but we do have Shabbat dinner at home as often as possible.) And as for Saturday morning services, these are nonexistent, a thing of the past. Shabbat has become my son going to dance, my daughter going to swimming. They go at different time and to different places requiring two parents to drive.
Even when my husband can drive them and I am able to go to services by myself, I find myself not wanting to go these days. It feels too lonely. I used to go with my whole family every Friday night…well, almost every Friday night (3 out of 4). And we went on many a Saturday as well. And then Friday night Shabbat dinner was a bigger deal as well, with more time and energy spent on filling what I saw as empty rituals with meaning and spirit. But These days if I go, I go alone. And that feels terribly sad and lonely.
My husband also used to like to go with me – kids liked it, too, for the most part, but he’s taken a detour off the spiritual path in general, and that includes Judaism. That makes me even sadder, since he was my partner on that path. So, going to services alone feels just a bit lonelier still these days.
And tonight I’m home alone. It’s Shabbat. We had to be out driving kids. And now I’m waiting for everyone to get home. I made it home first. And it’s lonely. Shabbat shouldn’t be spent alone.
So, I’m writing on Shabbat, so that anyone else that is out there feeling lonely on Shabbat might feel less alone, might know that there are other people out there just like you (and me) wishing they were not alone on Shabbat. Wishing they could go to services with someone. Wishing their family members weren’t so busy or were more interested so they could share a meaningful and spiritual Shabbat candle lighting and dinner with them or go to services together or simply…well…not be alone on the Sabbath.
And I’m writing on the Sabbath to say, it’s okay if your life takes a turn and suddenly you can’t make it to Shabbat services or you can’t light candles or when you do you just don’t have the time or energy to fill that ritual with meaning or spirit. As long as you are aware of your desire to have things be different, that’s what really matters. If your intention is to get back to that place where you have the time and take the time and really get something out of Shabbat and its rituals and prayers, eventually you will. But sometime we just aren’t in that place. And it’s okay.
That said, it makes me sad to not be in that place now. I love Shabbat. I love lighting candles in a meaning-full and spirit-full way. I love taking time to “do Shabbat.” I love being at services with my family and my spiritual community.
But beating myself up over not being able to do that won’t help, and it won’t bring me Shabbat shalom – Sabbath peace. That comes from connection to God, and that come from loving myself as much as I love God and God loves me. Judging myself will never give me Shabbat shalom.
So, judge me, if you will, for writing on Shabbat. I wish you – and myself – only Shabbat shalom.