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Essay #2: How Do You Celebrate Shabbat?

wk. 2 (Jan 23): Shabbat II: Prayer
Journal assignment: How might you observe Shabbat in a meaningful way? (Take a look at Resource Sheet 86 and pick two items you might do.) Do you pray? What motivates you? What setting works? What words emerge?

Tue Mar 4 - Bringing Shabbat celebration into my life has been a major consideration for the past two years. It's the main draw, the primary attraction of all the studies and participatory activities I've experienced so far. And to me, this is a good sign, since Shabbat is the most important holiday in all of Judaism, and comes every week. And to quote some of the lyrics from Danny Maseng's "Wasting Time with Harry Davidowitz," his grandfather tells him, "it's a whole new world every Friday."

When I first met Saul, I had Friday nights free to hang out with friends. And I'd ask if he'd be free to do this, that, or the other thing, and his answer was always, "Sorry, I have to go have dinner with my parents at home." And I was perplexed. I'd never heard of anything like this. Every Friday? Really? Now, I cannot imagine trying to ask him to miss Shabbat with his parents. And of all the Shabbat dinners I've had with friends, I still clearly remember the first time I was ever extended an invitation to join them for a familiy Friday Shabbat dinner. I was beyond humbled and honored, to be invited.

Growing up, there was something a little bit different about Sundays. We enjoyed the Sunday paper, the Sunday comics, dressing up, and heading to church. Mom often baked fresh bran muffins on Sundays. And Sundays in youth group were some of the few times we got extra spending money, to go out and buy something from a restaurant to eat for lunch. I enjoyed Sunday school, church services, lunch with my friends (usually across the street at an historic site in our city that had been turned into deli's, shops, and a hotel), and then coming back in the afternoon for youth group, choir rehearsals, and other activities.

But now, the specialness of Shabbat has taken on a sweeter flavor to me now than Sunday worship ever did as a child. I find I'm even anticipating my desire to "Enjoy Shabbat" by preparing earlier in the week. I find I usually want to have the laundry done by Thursday nights, to make sure there's no laundry worries on a Friday. I like having the house clean, the floors vacuumed, the kitchen scrubbed, and my room picked up. I like fitting either Friday services or Saturday morning services into my ridiculously packed schedule. I like having pay day on Thursday night / Friday morning, and disciplining myself to have all the bills paid before I go home on Friday night.

My favorite Friday nights have been sharing dinner at Jeff and Adrienne's house. It's like "going home to see family" more than anything else. I can always anticipate having a wonderful meal, and wonderful fellowship. There's a restfulness in spending Friday nights there, more than anything. When we celebrate Shabbat together, we always light candles, recite/sing Kiddush together, share challah and say the Hamotzi. And then there's always a special meal—something amazing from Caterina's magical kitchen. The simplest chicken and veggies are transformed into a feast.

The only dilemma I ever have is how to make an SCA weekend into a celebration of Shabbat. How does one make an SCA Saturday into something worshipful and restful? In one way, Saturday events are so different, so special compared to the modern/mundane week, they just naturally feel like something special and celebratory. And there's nothing so amazing as sharing Havdalah with my SCA friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish. A few non-Jewish friends of mine have remarked on how nice it was to be included in Havdalah, so I'm thinking of keeping my eyes open more often for sharing this hospitality with more than the usual members (and friends) of B'nei Caid. Inclusiveness touches people, and it makes me think of the beauty of Shabbat.

Jeff often jokes that when we go to SCA events on Saturdays, and then we find ourselves going out to eat late after the event, this is our "Seudah Shlishit" or "third meal" … the one we linger over, and don't hurry. For we're reluctant to let Shabbat go too soon, and lingering over Seudah Shlishit means we've prolonged the sabbath that much longer, making it sweeter.

If I were to pick from "Resource Sheet 86" (quoted below), I'm already doing several of these most Shabbats. I light candles, say kiddush, enjoy wine (or grape juice; or sometimes even just grapes when I was really desperate, alone, and wishing for a way to stop and acknowledge Shabbat), share challah and say Hamotzi, enjoy some family dinners, occasionally attend services. Saturdays I've attended some services, visited friends, and shared many Havdalot with friends. I try to avoid doing work on Saturdays (whether career work or SCA jobs, like web design or the newsletter), and I don't often write or clean house on Saturdays. Friday nights at Adrienne's I've occasionally done dishes for her, because to her it would be work (and for refraining) but for me it increases my joy to use hot water, soap, and bring joy to Adrienne.

What am I not doing? When I choose SCA events, I'm usually not avoiding driving a car, handling money, or shopping. I could remember to shop for SCA events before Friday night, and have everything packed already. This would significantly increase my rest and relaxation, and would add to avoiding handling money.

I did feel awkward once, when at an event I was helping collect for a raffle. I approached my friend Alan for whether he might like a raffle ticket, and he looked at me with surprise, saying, "I don't handle money on Saturdays." I didn't know at the time this was one of the Shabbat items, and I was dismayed that I didn't know. I know now, and I continue to wonder how to incorporate this into my life more.

It *is* odd to read the more detailed lists of Shabbat restrictions, since they include "weaving, spinning, plying" and things like that. I'm one of the few people nowadays who *is* a spinner, and I imagine there are not many people down at the synagogue thinking, "Oh, I have to remember not to spin yarn on the Sabbath." But in the context of an SCA event, and something that increases my joy, it's hard for me to think, "I should refrain from this on the Sabbath." But when I consider those Fiber Arts tasks of mine that *are* like doing work (washing fleece, combing and carding, weaving on my tapestry loom), these seem easy to refrain from on Shabbat, and something to concentrate on during the week instead. But spinning, braiding, and embroidering seems so darn *fun*, so it's hard for me to think about not enjoying them on Sabbath. It's just a thought. However, I love the idea of reading and studying Torah, singing, enjoying community and congregational worship. I just don't know how often I'll put that ahead of my other favorite things to do.

I do pray. The spontaneous prayers are often musical—I sing alone in the car, while walking, anywhere and everywhere. And most of my heart-outpourings to G-d are sung. I'm motivated by anguish, joy, love, frustration, rejoicing, being awed by the beauty in nature, and so many other things. I often find myself gasping and thanking G-d for a gorgeous sunset or the moon in the sky. I adore hearing morning doves, and the sound of them reminds me of quiet prayer times at church camp as a child, or time alone in college in the mornings, sitting out near the lagoon on campus.

And I find I want to know more and more Jewish prayers in their musical settings. I want to have all the Shabbat prayers and song memorized, all of Havdalah, and the entire Birkat Hamazon. I'll have to schedule that into my weekly studies.

* * * * *
Resource Sheet 86: Chart of Possibilities and Beginnings for Shabbat Observance and Celebration -
Possibilities to Do: Friday evening: Light candles, Kiddush over wine, Challah, Bless children, Family dinner, Attend services, Make love with spouse. Saturday: Attend services, Study, Visit friends, Go for a walk, Take a nap, Spend time with each family member, Make Havdalah
Possibilities Not to Do: Work at your job, Drive your car, Deal with money, Write, Clean your house, Shop

Summarizing points from Resource Sheet 85, "What to Do (and Not to Do) on Shabbat" by Mark Dov Shapiro: Joy, Holiness, Rest, Refrain from Work, Worship, Preparation, Hospitality, Tzedakah, Candles, Kiddush, Blessing Children, Hamotzi, Shabbat Table, Birkat Hamazon, Worship with a congregation, Shabbat Noon Meal, Torah Study, Visit the Sick, Berit Milah, Specialness, Havdalah

One list of the "39 Categories" of Prohibited Work:
* The first 11 categories are activities required to bake bread: Planting, Plowing, Reaping, Binding sheaves, Threshing, Winnowing, Selecting, Grinding, Sifting, Kneading, Baking
* The next 13 categories are activities required to make a garment: Shearing wool, Washing wool, Beating wool, Dyeing, Spinning, Weaving, Making two loops, Weaving at least two threads, Separating two threads, Tying, Untying, Sewing at least two stitches, Tearing for the purpose of sewing
* The next 9 categories are activities required to make leather: Trapping, Slaughtering, Flaying, Salting meat, Curing hide, Scraping hide, Cutting hide into pieces, Writing two or more letters, Erasing
* The final 6 categories are activities required to build a house: Building, Tearing something down, Extinguishing a fire, Igniting a fire, Applying the finishing touch, Transferring between domains

* * * * *
Today's Blessing That I'm Thankful For: Danny Maseng, and Jeff for turning me on to his music.

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