In the modern orthodox Jewish home in which I was raised, Shabbat, the Sabbath, always felt to me like a major inconvenience.
The list of prohibitions was long.
No phone. No driving anywhere. No shopping. No spending money. No writing. No television.
Sabbath often arrived like an unwelcome interruption, especially at this time of year, as the days grow shorter.
I remember my mom always rushing to get things done before the time for candle lighting arrived on Friday evening.
It turned Friday into a day of anxiety — a constant rush to get it all done before we were cut off from civilization.
Who needs more stress?
By the time I went off to college, I was eager to leave the constrictions and restrictions behind. I adopted the philosophy of my late grandpa,
Shabbat is a day of rest, not a day of inconvenience.
A New Appreciation
In recent years I began to have a new appreciation for some of those restrictions and the interruption.
In an always connected world the prohibitions now feel like gifts instead of punishments.
Suddenly I realize why the Sabbath is welcomed like a bride.
You’re Never Ready
you light the candles
when the Sabbath time arrives
not when work is done
The ritual of candle lighting is like the proctor at an exam that tells you to put down your pen. The time for work is over. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t finish.
If we waited until we finished our work, we would never take a break.
Sabbath doesn’t start when you’re ready. It starts when the sun sets on Friday night.
Still, it seemed silly to me to light Sabbath candles if I wasn’t going to adhere to the “no work” rules.
I recently had a shift in my perspective on this.
I have found that the ritual of lighting the candles serves a purpose beyond stopping work.
Awareness of Time
As we have spent more time working from home, it’s easy to get lost in the bleeding of one day into the next.
Especially as colder weather comes, the days grow shorter, and it’s easier to hibernate more inside, we can lose connection with the rhythm of the days.
Lighting the Sabbath candles demarcates the day. It creates a new space within the existing space of time.
The interruption also serves as a necessary check on my tendency to get absorbed in my work to the exclusion of everything else.
Lighting the candles brings me back to the present. Even if I’m going to work on something in the evening, the fact that I engaged in the ritual of lighting the candles makes me think differently about what I choose to do, and how engage in it.
The ritual brings me back to the present. It makes me aware of the day, aware of time. It reminds me to consider how I want to use the precious gift of time that I’ve been given.
welcome Sabbath time
a respite from your doing
to rest in being