Shabbat experiences are part of our lives, and they change over the course of a lifetime. The Shabbat we remember (or don’t) from our childhoods is not the Shabbat we will have as new parents. Single adults will have a different Shabbat, as will empty nesters.
There is no “perfect” Shabbat. Stop looking for it. Instead, experience the Shabbat that comes. Sometimes it will seem peaceful and holy, and sometimes the sink will stop up or the baby will wail half the night. Sometimes we are surrounded by people, sometimes we are alone.
Shabbat simply is. She comes with the sunset and will leave 24 hours later. In between it is up to us to make of her what we can, what we will.
“People plan, God laughs” – there’s an old Yiddish saying to that effect. It can happen to your Shabbos, too.
This afternoon I was on the back patio doing a bit of work from home when I suddenly realized there were only two little dogs playing around my feet. Where was Gabi?
I spent the next two hours frantically trying to find her. I am happy to report that a neighbor found her – the chip company number was on her collar, so he called them, and they called me. WHEW.
And now Shabbat dinner is not cooked. So I’m getting takeout.
There will still be Shabbat here at Beit Adar. There will still be candles, and wine, and rejoicing, even more so because a certain little wanderer has been found. And after Shabbat, I am going to find that hole in the fence and FIX IT!
Flowers are always your safest choice. The reason I say that is that even if you bring kosher food or drink, and you bring it unopened, the hecksher (rabbinical seal) may not be one your kosher host recognizes. If you stick with flowers, you can’t go wrong unless they are allergic to those flowers.
Do NOT take to a kosher home:
homemade food of any kind
wine of any kind
kosher food that has had the seal broken
Just take my word for it. Kosher kitchens are important to those who keep them and these things create complications, no matter how well meant they are.
Last but not least: if you don’t take something, that isn’t the end of the world. Write a paper (not email) thank-you note afterwards, and all will be well. Actual thank you notes are much rarer than wine or trivets, and they tend to be remembered for a long, long time.
If you have a question for a rabbi, click “Ask the Rabbi” at the top of this page, and I will do my best to answer your question! No question is “stupid” and you can rest sure that someone else wants to know, too. You are doing a mitzvah by asking!
I studied a bit of practical Torah today with a woman who has been my friend for years. She was my conversion mentor (not my rabbi, just a friend who showed me the ropes) and since then we have become friends and partners in teaching. I still look to her when a bit of practical home-based Judaism is tricky for me.
A year ago (a year ago!) she gave me a bread machine as a housewarming gift. I have always made bread by hand, and was suspicious of machines. I am also very busy, especially on Fridays, and so I bought my challah at the store, because I was afraid of the bread machine. I decided “Enough of that nonsense!” and asked Dawn to teach me how to use the terrifying bread machine.
Yes, I am making fun of myself. It is ridiculous for a grown woman of nearly sixty years to be afraid of using a bread machine. I am pretty sure – almost certain – that it will not blow up. Dawn assures me that it won’t. And it is not a crime to use a machine to allow me to do other things.
I know for sure the challah that comes out will be good – Dawn uses the same machine! I love her challah!
How do you get your challah? Do you bake it? Make it with a machine’s help? Buy it from a particular store? Make it with your children or friends?
Has there ever been a mitzvah you were afraid to try because you might mess up?
Anyway, I wish you a Shabbat Shalom, and tasty challah however you obtain it!
I had another near-disaster on the freeway. The alternator died, with the result that by the time I was able to get off the road and stop, it was just me, 2 tons of car, and the laws of physics. Still a good day because I lived to tell about it.
Friends have had unhappy things happen: serious bicycle accidents, skunks under the house, car accidents, failures of technology with consequences, illness.
The Jewish People have had a hard week: violence in Jerusalem, rising anti-Semitism in Europe, nasty stuff on the internet. We remembered a very difficult week 19 years ago, when we lost Yitzhak Rabin, one of our heroes.
We are coming up on an anniversary this weekend: the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht. If you don’t know about it, or are only vaguely clear about it (“a Holocaust thing”) then follow the link and read about it. We should reflect upon it before slinging around the word “Nazi.”
Many heavy burdens to carry, but tonight the sun will go down, and we will welcome the Sabbath in all her glory. Let those burdens drop from our shoulders, take a deep breath, and let us welcome the peace, if only for a little while.
If we make our best effort to experience the Sabbath, perhaps we can carry some of that peace into the week that follows.
Kein y’hi ratzon: May it be the will of the Eternal. Amen.
This week I have no time. The faster I go, the worse it gets. I am behind on so many things, and Shabbat is coming. What to do?
One option is something I just did: Crock Pot Shabbat. That means I take whatever I have that will make a good soup, a really good soup, I put it in the crock pot and the crock pot will take care of dinner. Tonight’s offering:
4 potatoes, cut into chunks
1 lb ground beef, browned
3 onions, sliced
1 bunch of celery, sliced
1 bunch of collard greens, sliced into ribbons
1 32oz box of chicken stock
Dump all ingredients into crock pot. Set to cook on low for 6 hours.
Add one challah, and a couple of glasses of wine. Hineh! (Voilá!) Shabbat dinner.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, adjust ingredients accordingly.
Chopped tomatoes are good in it.
If you like, you can add an envelope of “beef stew seasoning” or similar for flavor.
If you are more domestic than I, make your own broth.
If you are even less domestic than I, it is not strictly necessary to brown the meat.
The point is, you dump the ingredients in, and there is no more work. Cleanup is limited.
Maybe you’ve read a description of Shabbat observance, and found it overwhelming or just plain impossible. Or perhaps you had relatives who did observe Shabbat, and the way they went about it left you feeling that it was a burden, not a joy.
And now it’s Elul, and the High Holy Days are coming, and perhaps some of you are thinking that you’d LIKE to keep Shabbat, but… (you fill in the blank.)
So let me suggest another approach. If you want to keep Shabbat, pick ONE THING on this list that you aren’t already doing.
1. Light candles Friday night.
2. Set aside some part of Friday night or Saturday for a family meal.
3. Go to services at a nearby synagogue.
4. Set aside the 24 hours of Shabbat as a “no-nagging” time zone, or maybe just Friday night.
5. Read a commentary or d’var Torah on this week’s Torah portion. (You can find it here.)
6. Call or write to someone you love.
7. Do something you don’t usually give yourself time to do: take a walk in nature, for instance.
8. Have wine or juice with dinner Friday night, and say a blessing (English is fine.)
9. Turn off your cell phone and/or computer for part or all of the day.
10. Choose not to do any shopping from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Let whatever it is wait.
Now, try that ONE THING it out this Shabbat. Afterwards, ask yourself:
How did that feel? Do I want to do it again?
If so, do it again. If not, pick something else on the list and try it. Later, you can add something, when you are ready. Add no more than one thing at a time.