Those of you who know me personally will know that my husband and I are at the very beginning of the path of converting to Judaism. We're going from no official background in religion (save my not-even-half-hearted, done-so-I-no-longer-had-to-go-to-church confirmation as a Lutheran when I was 13) to attempting to integrate ourselves into an entire people with a rich and complicated history.
It's just a little daunting. But what else it is, is amazing. As cliche as it is, it feels as if we have come home.
One of the traditions that appeals to me deeply is making Shabbat. That is, as the Ten Commandments would put it, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." Most of us have probably heard about all of the restrictions put on the Jewish people on the Sabbath - not only no work, but no carrying, no tying, no cooking, no turning on lights (though note: the degree of observance, at least in Liberal - i.e. non-Orthodox - Jews varies drastically). And I'm sure most of us think that it sounds awful, a whole day of not being allowed to do so many things.
But as it turns out, the Sabbath is seen as a gift. It's a day to focus on family and spiritual obligations instead of earthly ones. Starting with the lighting and blessing of candles, blessing wine and bread, blessing one another, and sharing a meal, it marks the passage of another week and allows you to stop and appreciate what you have been given and what you have worked for.
What a concept! Isn't this what so many of us are longing for in these hectic times? One of the many things that draws me toward Judaism is how the passage of time is noted and celebrated instead of simply allowed to passed, unnoticed except for when we see a gray hair in the mirror and wonder when we got old, or waking up one morning to kids who have slept through the night and realizing how long ago it was that they woke us up every morning and we just wished they would sleep five hours in a stretch, just once, please...!
How do I hope to make Shabbat? I hope we'll greet sundown on Friday with the traditional blessings and ritual paraphernalia (we joke that my husband's into this for the hats, and I'm into it for the food and candlesticks), followed by a meal, with flowers on the table and a passably clean home. I will try to make Saturday a day free of non-joyful obligations. I'll try to have as much food for Saturday prepped ahead of time as possible, so time with my family is maximized. (As much as I love being in the kitchen, I think I spend too much time in there.) We'll spend time on Torah study, reading, napping, laughing. When we can, we'll go to grownup services and Tot Shabbat. It'll be a day of being obligated to live in the present.
This sort of thing isn't just for religious people, either. Why can't we all take a day to turn off the rest of the world and focus on ourselves and our families?
Here are a few inspirational articles I've read recently on the topic:
The Selfish Shabbat - "I hardly believed in God's existence when I started to observe Shabbat. My observance began for one reason only: I was selfish."
An interview with the author of A Modern Jewish Mom's Guide to Shabbat (since one of my challenges will be how do I do this when I'm at work most the week?)
Can a mom really rest?, an interview with the author of Rest, a book for anyone interested in slowing down and integrating this idea into their own lives.