Shabbos — the Seventh Day of the Week (ok, Saturday) which is marked by Jews worldwide with all sort of wacky traditions. Like no cellphones. Or internet. Or cars. Or light switches. And all the other basic things in our lives which weren’t a part of the primitive life in the Shtetl. Alright, you get the point. (To be totally honest, there were quite a lot of restrictions back then too — the source of the laws the way they are now. Like no fires. Or harvesting your fields. Or destroying your hut. Or preparing the fish for dinner. Etc.)
Now Shabbos starts Friday night — at sundown. Which means that when the minute strikes, all weekday things stop. And in enters a new reality.
A little confession here: (The Confessions of a Thinking Kid?) One is really meant to be ready for Shabbos before it enters. I.e. the phones are off, the person is generally showered and dressed regally, and you’re not riding the subway five minutes before sundown. Yet, in all of my youthful energy (and my untold ability to procrastinate) I may have on occasion been a rider in such a situation. . . Alas.
Quite a lot occurred in those five minutes. But in the end, somehow, as Shabbos entered my phone was off, my belongings safely stored away — in a neighboring shop owned by a kind-hearted Gentile — to be retrieved after Shabbos, (have I mentioned that it is also forbidden to carry anything in the public thoroughfare?) and my legs taking me the rest of the journey home. Rain or shine, a block or a couple miles. Because it’s Shabbos. And I don’t decide when it comes. It’s Divine and it’s Absolute.
And you know what? Those walks are from the happiest things that could come on a person. At least to a ruminator like myself, anyway. Because the Shabbos observant Jew has been transported to a different world; a different reality. One where taxis and buses don’t mean you hitch a ride. A busy store on the street side doesn’t equal shopping. And one’s not looking to entertain their walk with music and cross-world communication. Because, at that moment, the hustle-bustle of the world around you doesn’t exist in your life. You’re literally transported and uplifted. To a calmer place. Where there’s you, G-d, and Your People. And you’re all resting simultaneously. That’s a reason for joy. Calm, grateful happiness.
Now, it’s true that this rest is the lot of any Shabbos observant Jew. One who accepts it in due time — the way it’s meant to be. These few experiences, however, have helped me appreciate it so much more. Because in those moments it was an inconvenience. I wasn’t ready for it. And yet, it happened, because it’s G-d’s day of rest. And with this small submission, that His day became my day, and I was ready — with whatever last minute hectic rush — the transportation was so much more palpable. It wasn’t my rest. It was His. And in those moments — I was totally in the world of Shabbos.
Really, even this experience isn’t all exclusive. Anyone who’s seen an observant Jewish household knows that there will inevitably be weeks with a last minute rush. On a winter Friday, Shabbos will begin at 4:00 PM. And there’s the food that has to come out of the oven, the last second finishing touches, and the rush for the shower. (As heating up the hot water — even by means of the faucet — is also a strict nay.) And now imagine large families, that all have to catch their afternoon pre-Shabbos shower before Shabbos! (I mean 10 kids or more. Many a religious folk will raise such families.) Yet, in a moment, all is transformed. The house is calm; tranquil. As if they were ready for it.
But that’s the miracle of the day. It’s absolute; it’s His. And we’ll go there too. Because we’re His People.