Today is Friday.
Feeling in need of a mental detox post-work and pre-weekend, I decided to walk along The High Line. In college as a Project Wildcat counselor, I led groups of incoming freshman on multi-day backpacking trips through Minnesota. We encouraged our campers to go on a solo hike or a pair hike. This was one of the only times on the trip when they had the chance to really decompress, reflect, get to know themselves or another person, and just be.
On my solo hike in this urban jungle of New York City I did just that.
Lots of thoughts crossed my mind. I decided I wanted to become a famous Instagram personality. And take a photography class. And buy an apartment. And move to Australia. And become a regular at some hip NYC restaurant. Those are a few of the many ideas that sprouted on my walk. I relished this time to just let go and let be. The thought that it was Friday, that this was the start of my Shabbat, was inextricably linked to this experience.
Since moving to Brooklyn and traveling to Israel this summer with the Shapiro Family Fellowship, I've tried to reincorporate aspects of Shabbat into my life. Growing up, Shabbat meant a weekly family meal that marked the end of the week/start of the weekend. My dad, serving as the President of our temple, would run off to services after dinner and my sister and I were free to do as we please with our Friday nights, but there was that time between 6-8pm (roughly) when we all came together for Shabbat. In Brooklyn, I've shared many a Shabbat with my sister, her fiancé, friends, neighbors, dogs, children, and good food (of course). We don't do this every week, but when we do I feel great. As the week progresses, I look forward to Shabbat and the newness it brings; Shabbat revives me for the week to come.
People often ask me what I love so much about Israel. Shabbat is often the answer. In Jerusalem, the city shuts down. It's easy to decide to relax and ignore "real life" when it seems like everyone around you is doing so. Yet even in Tel Aviv where the religious aspects of Shabbat can seem quite distant, there is a notion that Shabbat is there and welcoming you to stop, to think, to take a few minutes to breath and change the pace of life you've maintained since Monday. Books and articles and people boast of the benefits of meditation and slowing down. What they should advise is everyone take a big ol' dose of Shabbat. And the same way that some people meditate seated and in silence, others through guidance, and others by running, Shabbat can be "observed" in a variety of ways.
When I was in Jerusalem for Shabbat this past July, it was an emotional time. We were nearing the end of our trip to Israel and tensions between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip were rising. On the brink of a new war, we used Shabbat to begin to "unpack" the meaning in many of the conversations and discussions that had consumed our days. As we walked from East Jerusalem back to our hotel, the sounds of....canons signifying the end of Ramadan? Rockets? Fireworks?....reinforced the doubt and uncertainty of the region and, for me, the mixed and evolving feelings I had about Israel, Judaism, my religious and cultural identity and my "life goals". Three minutes into the 25 minutes walk, a dog started barking and running at us. Half the group was terrified, but as the dog approached she calmed down and began "leading" us back to the hotel. She stopped in the road and did not continue until the entire group crossed the street. She ran ahead, stopped, waited, and continued on with us. As we crossed the street onto the block of our hotel, the dog looked back at the group and then darted away and disappeared. I made a big deal that she was the Sabbath Bride coming to lead us to safety. Yes, I believe it. If there was a time for a miracle to happen, it would be on Shabbat.
Today I am extremely grateful for having Shabbat, for having New York, Israel, family, friends, and a brain that befuddles me and amazes me on a daily basis.
|Sha-sha, the Sabbath Bride|
|Shabbat Services on the water in Tel Aviv|
|Afternoon Shabbat Ice Cream|
|Hanging at the beach on Shabbos!|