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Jan 09

Revisiting Shabbat

The Jewish religion, some say, is founded on Shabbat. It’s the most holy day of the week, more important that the High Holidays, than Passover. My perception is that it’s the foundation – God asks that you take one day a week to hold up, to stop doing everything and just exist. Focus on friends, on family, on yourself. Go to services, take a nap, relax. Don’t work, don’t stress out, don’t fight. For one day a week, just be.

It was my favorite part of Judaism. There are lots of things about being Jewish that I really like, things that resonate with me. That make sense on a fundamental level. I love the intimate relationship with God, I love the focus on literacy and intellectual development. I love the way children are encouraged to question and learn and make up their own minds about things. I love the sense of personal responsibility – we might not be able to make the world perfect, but it’s our responsibility to try. But mostly, I loved that that every week, the most important thing to do is take a day when your most important duty is to enjoy your life. To remember all the things you love most about where you are, who you’re with, and just enjoy it.

I’ve lost some of that… Shabbat is coming, more and more, to be something that I’ve skipped because I’ve been pregnant and tired and puking. It’s more of a hassle than anything else, and that’s not what I want. Not for me, not for my kids. So I let go of fighting it – and just let Marc and the kids do what they wanted. Turn on the tv, turn on the computer, and just make Saturday another day.

Last night, I made Shabbat dinner and it didn’t go well. It was chaotic and hectic and there was a lot of yelling and crying. I didn’t enjoy it. I realized that Jessie is throwing screaming Hurricane Jess fits in a desperate attempt to get attention and wrestle back some control over her life. My apartment is tiny, and by the time Lilli and Sarah left, it looked as though a bomb had gone off. Which made this morning that much more unpleasant for me – and is pushing me to think of how I can take back Shabbat, make it more meaningful. It’s one of those things that’s only as special as I make it – when I let it go, it just turns into Saturday – and my life, and the lives of my family lose a little bit because of it.

So my resolution this year is to start really observing Shabbat. And that might mean not making a huge dinner every week, maybe it means ordering in take out. It will definitely mean that I don’t want Marc driving the girls home, when he comes home from work on Friday nights, then he’s home for the night. No driving unless absolutely necessary on Friday nights. The girls can either spend the night, or Lisa can pick them up. We’ll forego the normal bedtime routine and put the kids to bed together, with stories and snuggles. No more television and no computer. We’re going to start playing board games, going for long walks as a family, reading together. Instead of having all this work on Fridays to get ready for Shabbat, I’m thinking maybe I’ll do simpler dinners and make sure that I have stuff for a special breakfast on Saturday as well.

I don’t want my Shabbat to be hectic and miserable, with kids screaming and me stressed out. But I don’t want to give them up either. I don’t want Saturday to be just another day. I have to figure out ways to make sure that it’s special and meaningful and pleasurable for everyone. We had done the no tv/no computer thing for a while in the past, and loved it. It’s a struggle at first, but then it becomes a way to make the day longer and to stretch out the time together.

With a big family (and with almost five children, mine is definitely a big family) sometimes, it feels more like crowd control than anything else. Especially last night – there was a ten minute screaming battle over who was going to sit where at the table. That’s not fun.

I’m going to make Shabbat fun.

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