Give it a rest
I've always had a strong Jewish identity, but until recently, resting on Shabbat was not part of that identity.
Over the last few months, I've been keeping Shabbat more strictly because my boyfriend is shomer Shabbos. At first, I wasn't so sure I could go a day without my iPod or pancakes at my favorite diner. But you know what? I kinda love it. I like having a break from the hustle and bustle of the work, activities, and chores of the typical week. I love that no matter what we're doing, on Friday at sundown, we just stop and shut everything off, and welcome in the Sabbath bride and the peaceful calm she brings with her. Then, we eat, drink, connect with the people in our lives, and reflect.
Recently, Shabbat couldn't come soon enough when coverage of the tragic Sandy Hook shootings enveloped the airwaves. As a journalist, I tend to obsess over news coverage. But on this particular Friday, just hours after the heartbreaking event occurred, I had to shut down my computer, my phone alerts, and my television—and transition into Shabbat.
Yvette Alt Miller, author of the book Angels at the Table: A Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat (Continuum International Publishing Group), writes about the beauty of shutting the noise of the outside world down on Shabbat.
Her book is a guide to the weekly practice of Shabbat, interweaving liturgical text, practical advice, information, anecdote and history to tap into the Shabbat experience, no matter what the reader's level of religious observance or knowledge of the holiday.
Yvette and her husband have four children, ranging from ages 2 to 9. Working, raising the kids, and shuttling them to school and to their flurry of activities is a sprint every day. Every day, that is, except Shabbat. On Shabbat, life slows down for one beautiful day. Miller and her family, who live in Northbrook, have a chance to enjoy each other's company—to eat, sing, pray, play, and relax.
What Yvette loves about Shabbat is that it's sacred, set apart from the routine of the rest of the week. "I like the slow pace of the day. On Shabbos, no one has anywhere to go. I find I have the best conversations, especially with my family—my children and husband," Yvette once told me in an interview, adding that she first met her husband at a Shabbat lunch in Manhattan, contributing to her love for the holiday. "Another part of Shabbos is you use your best stuff that day, you get dressed up, you use your china, it makes the day so gracious and pretty."
"You can do Shabbat in your own way, it's there for you," she said. "It's your tradition to dip into. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. It's your tradition so own it."
It's only recently that I realized Shabbat really is there for me—it's there for all of us.