2/21/14

Shabbat Shalom . . .

No. Not peek-a-boo!
As we start down the third base line heading for "home" (our official Jewish conversion) we sat the other night in Rabbi's office and talked about a variety of things including what our Jewish/Hebrew names might be (apparently one of my finalists reminds my classmate of a skinny, pubescent boy - luckily it was NOT the one I chose) and what Israel means to us.

One of the things we did not discuss but we were told would likely come up at our Final Oral Exams (I am calling them that - it is really just an informal chat with some of the congregation's elders and Rabbi) was how we celebrate Shabbat and what the weekly occasion means to us.

It occurred to me that I've been marking Shabbat for nearly 17 months now (that is 73 Shabbats to you and me) and that, while I've told various people in my life about how I do it I've never really thought about HOW I do it.

There are a series of rules for strict, observant (Shomer Shabbos) Jews but, as a reform Jew and as a convert coming from a life where Friday nights and Saturdays were not consistently religious other than the "Holy Week" leading in to Easter I can comfortably say that I am NOT shomer Shabbos and I am okay with that - as is my faith.

Let's be clear . . . I am taking baby steps toward a more observant, dutiful Jewish life. I do not follow a Kashrut or "Kosher" diet but I don't eat pork, shellfish, or milk and meat at the same time any more. I don't co-mingle milk and meat at meals. I bought glass dishes for my new place, etc. It has been baby steps Every few weeks I tighten my controls and try to make steps forward and I will continue to do so.

The same is true for Shabbat. While still a work in progress - here is how the occasion plays out most weeks.

  1. Services are the centerpiece. I typically go Friday evening but will go on Saturday mornings as my schedule dictates. I have NO problem planning my calendar - on a night that most people view as prime social real estate - around religious services. I actually find it a comfort in some ways. I am so at peace in the sanctuary that it feels like the perfect end to the week.
  2. I don't drive causally between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. If I HAVE to go somewhere or do something, I will drive. If it can be done before or after - I offset it. I am finding this easier and easier to do over time. It is sorta nice to drive home from services and know that I can just hang out for the next 24 hours (easier the weekends my daughter is with her mother).
  3. I don't spend money I don't have to spend on Shabbat. Insert cultural joke here but I have NO problem with this one. I typically do all my errands and shopping on Sunday (always have) so - save ditching out on a social plan or two or maybe having other people pay or offering to pay them back if they do pay - it is pretty easy. I will readily go to dinner Saturday evening (even if we start before the sun has set) as a compromise.
  4. I do light prayer candles and welcome the Bride of Shabbat in to my home. Once old enough - and if she wants to (no conversion implied or implored) - my daughter will light the candles and recite the prayers (an honor typically given to women - although it being an "honor" is open to dispute). 
  5. I DO wear my kippah from the time I leave the house to go to services until I go to bed Friday night. This is an entirely made up observance but one that I enjoy . . . Shabbat is subjective, yo.
  6. I do not CASUALLY use electricity or electrical devices on Shabbat. We eat largely room temperature and/or cold foods (I know this is cheating, too). To clarify - I turn on two lights in the house before leaving for services (this is cheating and I KNOW it). I turn them off before going to bed. I put my smart phone away (not turned off but I don't use it unless someone contacts me). I don't talk or text unless I have to - responsive, mainly. I try to resist social media and the Internet. I try to avoid Netflix and TV. I am getting stronger and better at this week after week (except my binge of House of Cards Season 2 last week - clearly).
  7. I spend at least two hours every Shabbat on my Hebrew, Torah reading, Jewish learning, or other Jewish pursuits. I typically do a lot more but I will do at least two hours the weekends I am a father. Some weeks I will spend eight or ten hours on these efforts.
  8. I avoid conflict.
  9. I try to honor all 613 Mitzvot for 24 hours (nearly impossible but I try) and I try to add another one to my list of rules to honor all day, every day (I'm currently in the high 200s - read the list - some of them are hard and interpretive and I want to be HONEST about what I am and am not (capable of) doing. 
  10. It is a throwback to my Catholic days but I review the 10 commandments and see how many times I broke any/all of them that week and vow to be better the next week (and I am improving).
I am FAR stronger on Fridays between work and bed than I am on Saturdays (something I am trying to rectify) and I will admit to breaking the above rules if it means time with friends or opportunities to better myself or in some way appreciate what I have and who I am and where I am going.

The whole point of Shabbat, for Jews, is to step away from the hustle and bustle of life and to spend a solid day - as G-d did - just reflecting on what had been made and done and to appreciate the value of the effort spent and to rest up for the next round. 

I won't pretend to be the Poster Child for Jews (I'm a work in progress, kids) but I feel like I'm honoring the day and trying to become more and more reverent.