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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Changing Faces of Shabbos

My roommates individually told me this morning that they each decided to stay in tonight to eat a Shabbos meal alone because they needed the peace and quiet (neither realized that the other had the same idea). It got me to thinking about the role of Shabbos in my life, and how I can barely fathom the idea of eating a Shabbos meal by myself, it just seems so lonely. Shabbos for me has changed over the years. Before I was frum, my family had "Friday night dinner." My mom would cook an actual meal, we would light candles, have wine and challah and my whole family would sit down for a nice Friday night meal. It lasted about half an hour before we would each retreat to our different corners of the house or to our various activities, but Friday night was reserved for a little bit of family time (it was the only time of the week my family sat down together). Then I went to Israel and experienced a kiruv Shabbos in the Old City. My first real Shabbos consisted of about 100 people, all crammed in an Aish Hatorah dining hall. There was lots of food, tons of singing and dancing, a lot of alcohol and an incredibly special feeling. It had me hooked. After I went back home from Israel, I would occasionally visit a frum family for a Shabbos meal, and the feeling was brought back and I really loved it, even if I wasn't yet ready to make the committment each week. About a year later, the SEED program came to Birmingham. Among those who came to lead the programming were a couple who I am still very close with. They brought Shabbos to a Birmingham devoid of an Orthodox rabbi at the time, and reignited that spark within me. After that Shabbos, I knew that I wanted Shabbos, and Orthodox Judaism in my life in a bigger way. Over the years, Shabbos has become a routine. My day of rest amid the hectic week. A time to relax. I used to spend some meals in by myself, but once I added school on top of work, I found that the only time to see my friends and the families I was close with was Shabbos. For a while I really enjoyed meeting new people on Shabbos, going to new families and getting to know people within the community. After a while though, being a spectator to other people's families became more difficult, as I yearned to be with my own family. So I gradually began going to the same people over and over, making family for myself, and becoming comfortable and at ease and really building relationships with a few families rather than being an acqaintance of many. Since my move, that is what I miss about Shabbos - that feeling of real closeness and comfort with a few families that I truly love. I think that is what has been missing from my making Passaic a home rather than a place to live. I have been building some relationships, but it does take time. I go to spend Shabbos with friends in different communities on occasion, and they are starting to feel like family also, and the feeling of Shabbos is starting to come back to being one of enjoyment, rather than stress at meeting new people once again and telling the same details of my life over and over. But even the prospect of having to explain who I am for the umpteenth time doesn't make me want to spend Shabbos alone. I still can't handle that. And I do really appreciate those people who have opened their homes to a perfect stranger to share in their Shabbos meals. As I was walking to work this morning, the Moshav Band (one the very few Jewish bands I can stand) came playing onto my Ipod. This used to be "erev Shabbos music" in my apartment each week. It puts me in the mood for Shabbos, and got me to thinking about how I soon hope to find family once again, here in Passaic. And how over the years Shabbos has really become part of me, part of who I am. Good Shabbos, however you choose to spend it!


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