Yesterday, I listened to a country song on the radio, a lyrical lament of a time gone by, as country songs often are. But one line made me laugh: “sittin’ around the table don’t happen much anymore.” It doesn’t, at least not at my house Sunday through Thursday. Though my kids are still small, we are already scheduled within an inch of our lives, my husband and I are attached to our oh-so-smartphones, and dinner is usually in shifts of macaroni and cheese.
And then comes Friday night, the beginning of Shabbat. The wind up to observing the Sabbath is at times chaotic, because while that sun sets Friday night, no matter what, Shabbat doesn’t make itself. In Hebrew, to observe Shabbat is to be shomer Shabbat, a “guardian” of the Sabbath. I always thought it sounded like Shabbat was prone to attack, or would wander off alone if not for your protective skills. Not so far from the reality. [....]
I haven’t always done this, been shomer Shabbat. I’d been told about it, had watched it from afar. And then someone invited me into her very traditional Jewish home for Shabbat lunch. I once could not imagine observing Shabbat in the most traditional of senses. No cooking, no driving, no television or internet, no shopping, no catching up on laundry. And if there had been texting twelve years ago, I probably couldn’t have imagined giving it up for an entire twenty-four hour period (never mind that Shabbat is actually twenty-five hours!). It seemed so extreme. And yet, when I was first invited to a family’s home for Shabbat lunch, I was intrigued, amazed, curious and eventually, hooked. There was something so calm, in spite of the six kids in the family and all their friends running around. There was so much food. So much talk. So much time around the table. I would climb back into my car after a very long lunch, not so much feeling guilty, as wondering, “How do I make that happen in my own life?” The answer was, incrementally.