Friday, February 09, 2007

Shabbat Shalom

This has been kind of a hard week. Because I often worry that I complain too often about the difficult health situations of my father, the petty arguments with my spouse, the (mostly just implied?) struggles I sometimes have with parenting, and the (maybe just implied?) bouts with depression I have too often, I just did not want to sit down to a blog post and open a vein. Hence the last post.

Well, things change and I find myself on the night of Shabbat, violating every Jewish proscription and turning on the computer to write a post.

On Friday nights, my family sits down to a nice Sabbath dinner, candles, a bottle of wine, and an evening of ritual and reflection. We light candles and say a blessing over the light. We drink red wine (sometimes too heavily) while we ruminate on the magical combination of what human hands can add to the simple fruits of the vine. We eat challah and contemplate what Son and I together have made from the raw materials of flour, yeast and water earlier in the day. What an act of transformation! What promises of human potential! I love the fact that the Friday night home service is all about appreciation of not only what we are given but what we do with those gifts.

Our family has added the tradition of picking angels. After rabbis introduced David and me (separately) to this New-Agey thing of these little commercial cards with assorted traits and cute pictures on them, we bought our own set and have, over the last fifteen years, taken more and changing meanings from this practice (and I do not do New-Agey things in general). The set of cards say things like "Communication," "Strength," "Grace" and "Understanding." After we each draw one each week, we talk about what that characteristic means to us. Sometimes we talk about how that particular angel must have been with us this past week. Sometimes we talk about how we need that angel to look after us in the coming week. While none of the three of us have any belief that we are talking about anything real, it gives us a way to talk about what it going on in our lives in a way we often avoid or feel shy about.

(Now that I am flipping through them, I am marveling that in fifteen years, neither David nor I have drawn "Brotherhood" despite the fact that both of us have younger brothers who played a big part in our initial bond. Story to follow sometime soon.)

In my pissy mood this evening, I stole the match out of David's hand after he lit one of the candles. Traditionally, women have lit two candles, or occasionally enough candles to represent all members of their family, as Shabbat started. Our personal family tradition is to alternate on a wing-it sort of schedule--recognizing that the peace of lighting the candles sometimes is a peace that the other needs even if it is not his or her turn. Tonight, we both needed it and each lit one candle.

We drew angel cards. I rolled my eyes internally as I played this stupid game--although I was unclear whether the stupid game was the angel cards or the whole Shabbat thing.

At the same time, I begged the powers that be not to give me some irritating didactic angel like Patience, or Obedience. I thought, "Yeah, I know--I deserve an angel rebuke. At least give me Love or something that will remind me why I should be be patient."

I drew my card.



The angels are with me.

David drew Light.

Son drew Creativity.

THIS is the Shabbat we need.

So I am off to play, to create the personal world of light, Or so advises one of my favorite teachers, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld:

Shabbat is a time for simplicity, but not asceticism.... The physical world is not denied; rather, it is to be savored. We are to enjoy good food and wine. The tradition encourages couples to have sex on Friday night. Yet Shabbat discourages the acquiring of material things. We turn inward on Shabbat. Accordingly, some people don’t answer the phone or read their mail or e-mail, just so the world intrudes less on their lives. If we try, we can cultivate the neshamah yeteirah, that extra measure of soulfulness, which is at the heart of the Shabbat experience.

Funny.... It is this soulfulness that is part of the spiritual world and part of the material that draws me to knitting, too....

And with this thought, I am off to PLAY for the rest of Shabbat.

That is, when I am not doing my onerous biblical duties as a member of a couple....


NeedleTart said...

Gut Shabbos! Yeah, me, too, on the computer (but I'm Reform, so if I can find a good reason, it's all right). I keep telling my class (b-nai Mitzvah) that for me shabbos is about enjoying the gifts Hashem has given us, our friends and families. Have a good time. (And enjoy those duties.....)

SaraSkates said...

What a great post! I'm not a jew but I utterly enjoy your stories - your perspective on the traditions is great ;) Happy light and play and creativity indeed....

Devorah said...

Shabbot Shalom. When we started lighting candles every week -- about a year ago -- I started stepping away from work and spending the shabbos focusing on my family and friends. The Sabbath is what you make it if you choose to make it at all.

Enjoy your play!

Barbara said...

I have come to recognize the value of using Shabbat to put on the brakes as the end of the week picks up speed. It's nice to have a time to reflect. I love your tradition of "guided" reflection. I love the fact that you chose PLAY.

Liz K. said...

Thank you for this post. My interfaith family observes Shabbat, but I have been looking for a way to make the lighting of the candles and the spirit of Shabbat more meaningful for our family. Do you have information about your angel cards?

CygKnit said...

I know it is Monday, and last Shabbos seems a week away instead of a few days, but I wanted to thank you. We've been missing something in our Friday evenings, but I hadn't realized we'd let the lighting of candles slip. Thank you for the reminder.

Also, hope you enjoyed those biblical duties ;)


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