The Meaning of Shabbat Rest Does Not Involve Parking Tickets

sleepI have guilt – so what else is new, nu? – about missing Saturday’s Tot Shabbat at Temple Mickve Israel. We really should have been there – our favorite Jewish families attended and my son is always transfixed in the presence of an open Torah scroll. A good Jewish mother would have gotten everyone up and made the schlep to be there at 10:15am instead of putting Kiki’s Delivery Service on the DVD player and dozing on the couch until noon.

But here’s my rationalization: Every other day of the week, I perform a frantic dance of getting everyone dressed, breakfasted, inspected for boogers and out the door to somewhere. (Yes, including Sunday – even though I don’t have to wear eyeshadow and I get to act like a dork, teaching Shalom School is indeed work.) At last week’s Friday night Community Shabbaton, I noticed a distinct emphasis from the Conservative service about rest, the admonition to separate Shabbat from all the other days. If I had set my alarm, struggled with my contact lenses and screeched at my daughter to just hurry up and zip her gawdforsaken boots so I could drive downtown and speed around the squares, irritated that I couldn’t find a parking place thanks to all these f*n tourists, it would have violated the laws of Shabbat much more than making challah french toast, painting the girl’s toenails and staying in my pajamas until 2pm. According to the Mizvot According to Me, anyway.

In fact, being a DIY Jew for whom experience most always weighs out over rabbinical law, I’ve developed a whole Shabbos scale of personal kosherness for myself: Dishes, laundry and other housework are no-nos, as is doing any kind of work for money. I don’t shop for groceries or spend any money if I can help it, but I have been known to get a pedicure just to sit in the massage chair. And if you’ve been reading even for a little while, you’ve figured out that the Yenta don’t blog on Shabbos. Basically, if it feels like work, I abstain. And the reality is that on my one day off, getting farpitzed for synagogue and schmoozing feels like work.

I am conscious of separating Shabbat from the rest of the week – We light candles on Fridays and eat a leisurely meal, I spend time in nature, I put forth prayers of gratitude and lovingkindess for my loved ones and the world, I play board games and pretend beauty shop and bake with my kids. I always feel a little sadness when those three stars appear on Saturday night and I fire up the computer and put in a load of laundry, signifying the return to the breakneck speed of life. The best Shabbats are like this past one, when I do nothing but putz around the house with El Yenta Man and the kids, take the dog for a walk and spot a red-tailed hawk. And laugh a lot.

What sayeth y’all, readers? Is it more important to attend synagogue on Shabbat or to really, truly, deeply rest as we see fit?

12 thoughts on “The Meaning of Shabbat Rest Does Not Involve Parking Tickets

  1. Hmmm… good question. I think that services should fit into the equation at least some of the time. But I also think that those lazy, truly restful Shabbatot are wonderful for recharging, both mentally and physically. Balance is important!

  2. Hmmm… good question. I think that services should fit into the equation at least some of the time. But I also think that those lazy, truly restful Shabbatot are wonderful for recharging, both mentally and physically. Balance is important!

  3. Great question. Since we are part of a religion that has many interpretations, I believe in observing at a level that feels true for you and sets Shabbat apart from the rest of the week. I like the idea of balance and going to shul sometimes, but if going on that day was going to be as crazy as it sounded, your observance was much better in my opinion.

    I love that you made me think about this and our dialogue with you is an essence of Judaism- questioning and discussing. A blessing on your head my dear friend!

  4. Do what comes naturally – it’s more peaceful.
    The great Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz once commented on a Jew who committed some sort of transgression on Shabbos – I don’t remember what it was, but the Yid always committed the same transgression on Shabbos, and never did the act on any other day of the week. R’ Steinsaltz concluded that even though the Jew had transgressed Shabbos he still managed to honor Shabbos, and that was better than nothing. So why be miserable, when one can bring joy to one’s household and to oneself?

  5. Are services required on the Sabbath? I think they are good for the community but I also think Torah study at home is just as good, especially if you have to break so many other mitzvot just to get to Shul. I’ve got a young child and would rather spend a peaceful day with him than get in my car and venture out into the chaos of the non-Shabbot world. That check engine light and the guy cutting me off will immediately toss me back into the stress of everyday life.

  6. I say rest & family first, especially when you have small kids. Also, very important to involve the kids with the Jewish community and the synagogue, but you’re already doing that in so many ways, no worries there, your kids are so tuned into their Jewishness…they might just grow up to be rabbis, who knows?

    Finally, I think it is important to find a little time for your very own Jewish nefesh to commune with the Holy One of Blessings, speaking only for myself, services or a little time for parshah study on Shabbos is vital, but like Schvach says, do what comes natural.

    My thoughts for what they’re worth, Dan

  7. Hello Yenta,
    I don’t know if you will this comment, as it is from an older post, but here is my take on the rest/temple dilemma.
    Why can’t one do both? Not all temples require getting all “fapished”, and services are usually over by 1:00. So afterwards, eat, sleep, or enjoy nature outside. But I agree with you – I don’t go to services every Shabbat, either. But I do deem the day of rest different than the others days of the week.

    Keep on blogging – you’re great !!

  8. Remembered reading this post awhile back, and came back to it because the subject has come up. I am also a mom, and adore those restful Shabbats, where there is no “anywhere I have to be” It’s nice to see people and to have lunch with them, but with my insane 16 hour a day nonstop schedule the rest of the week, I am starved for exactly what you described. Some time in the garden, baking with my daughter, reading, a leisurely early morning on the pation at Starbucks, etc. THAT is a Shabbat of rest! Thanks for the wisdom 🙂

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