Sadly, for too many years, I thought of Shabbos as a burden.
- How will we get home in time for Shabbos? Just use the 18 minutes.
- What will we eat for Shabbos? Just buy something takeout.
- What will we do all Shabbos? Just find something to read.
- How will we sit through shul? Just talk to each other, like everybody else.
- Where are you eating for Shabbos? I don't know.
The reason I thought of Shabbos as a burden was, for one thing, that it literally "interrupted" work. In a faithless world, work is what pays the bills - not the Hand of God.
Another reason I thought of Shabbos as a burden was the framework within which I learned what it means to be an observant Jew. It was very much a math equation: The fewer "things you did" on Shabbos--the more you oppressed yourself with restrictions--the more religious you were.
I have since come to see that Shabbos is about stepping away from your natural disbelief in God.
By that I mean that as a human being living in a material world, it is logical to focus on the things we see and hear and can touch as true. It is less logical to simply "believe."
Shabbos, as a method of religious practice, can be seen as a meditation on the true reality of the world. A world where God is in charge, and from God flows the blessings and the lessons (what we think of as punishments).
Those who read my blog are familiar with the fact that I (and the members of my family) have been seeing the number 613 everywhere for several years now. This is the number of commandments in the Torah.
The number is a reminder, a warning, a message and three years later I am starting to get it.
I now understand why for so many years I hated being a Jew. What they taught me in yeshiva, and in the culture I grew up in, had nothing to do with God. It had everything to do with following the Torah, which I do believe God gave us, but only in the way that we were told was appropriate.
When I tried to talk about God, the discussion was cut off. As if to insult me, once I was called a God-talker.
We only do what's right, I was told. We only follow the Torah.
I think in a way this very artificial mode of living turned me into a brand kind of person.
Because a brand, essentially, is the artificial construct of a religion. You have a set of beliefs, a name, a picture, some words, and you put it together and follow. Ostensibly to make money, but it's really about more than that. It's about finding something to identify with, in the absence of a deep-rooted community and belief system of your own.
If I had been taught about God properly, I never would have turned to brands to fill that void.
It is God who powers all things.
It is God who gave us the Torah.
It is NOT idol-worship to focus your life on God, serving God, and all the behaviors that follow from that.
While religions and rabbis can quibble about exactly which thing we are supposed to do, and when and why, the bottom line is that Shabbos is about the full acknowledgment of Him.
It's not about who has the best recipe for Challah.
It's not about who can sit in Shul the longest.
It's not about who has the fanciest house, the most guests, and so on.
We should get back to ourselves as Jews, as people, as human beings. It's time to reclaim the essence.
Reclaiming can start with Shabbos.
However you do or don't observe, I hope you have a good one.
Posted Nov. 24, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. CC0 photo by stevepb via Pixabay.