Monday, August 2, 2010

My 25 Hours of Shomer Shabbos-ness

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The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

It is hard to describe time. Sacred time. It looks like community. It smells like your favorite foods. It feels like a light breeze. It is easy. Comforting. It is that old friend that doesn't require an explanation, and that chuckles at the unspoken truths you both know and can appreciate.

The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.

A sacred moment. Drumming on the table. Humming niggun. Voices reaching higher. Eyes embracing that which is seen with lids closed. Hands pounding, expressing the inner light. The balance, the tension between the physical and the sacred.

The soul cannot celebrate alone.

Community. The ease of community. Walking. Seeing others walking. Davening, socializing, laughing, discussing, thinking, processing. Chopping vegetable, preparing dishes, shaking out table cloths. 

After the six days of creation-what did the universe still lack? Menuha. Came the Sabbath, came menuha, and the universe was complete.

Tranquility. Happiness. Stillness. Peace. Respite. Belly laughs. Deep conversations. Lighthearted tales. Reconciliation of the body and the soul. Why do some Shabbat I feel that and others I do not? This time, though, it was there. The universe was complete.

The solution of mankind’s most vexing problem will not be found in renouncing technical civilization, but in attaining some degree of independence of it.

The hard work of pulling oneself out of the ordinary. The ability to transplant oneself into a situation where joy is found in simple places. Friendship, community, nature, sacredness, learning, relinquishment of control over place. The taped lights and the electric water pot and the food on the blech and the strategically placed Shabbat lamps and no phone to ring and no tv to watch and no internet to browse.  A transplant into the realm of time, mindfulness, intent.  The independence of things.

We have known profanity too long and have become accustomed to think that the soul is an automation. The law of the Sabbath tries to direct the body and the mind to the dimension of the holy. It tries to teach us that man stands not only in relation to nature but in a relation also to the creator of nature.

Connection to the sacred. Opening the eyes. To see on that walk to shul. The person davening in front of me. The preparation of a meal for others. The flavors of seltzer water. The drash. The breeze. The exhaustive and needed Shabbos nap. To see the living of the day differently than the other days of the week. In the realm of time set aside by a creator.

A creator who gives us 6 days to create, and one to look around and see that it is good.

[all italicized quotes are by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish rabbi and brilliant thinker and activist. His book, completed by his daughter, called The Sabbath is a densely beautiful description of the Sabbath that takes us to its core.]

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