So here’s the deal. I’ve never fully kept Shabbat before. A shame, I know. But this past Shabbat, I decided to give it a try. After a stressful week, a day of rest would be nice.
Let’s just say, I’ll never view Shabbat in the same way again.
I’ll start from the beginning: Friday afternoon. The first thing I did when I got back from class was check my Chabad fridge magnet for candle lighting times. After realizing I only had a few hours before Shabbat started, I began to prepare. It was more of a mental preparation than anything else — I wanted to make sure I remembered all the halachot I learned in Jewish day school as a child. If I was going to keep Shabbat, I was going to do it right. Most things I did remember: no electricity, no writing, no spending money, no driving, and no using fire. My Google search, however, took me to places that I would have never imagined. It is forbidden to move plants, stones, raw foods, crystal decorations, pens, staplers, scalpels, passports and animals on Shabbat. And apparently, I cannot use a hammer unless I plan on opening a coconut. What was I getting myself into?
I glanced at my phone and noticed the time. With only two hours before Shabbat’s commencement, I had no time to doubt my decision. I took a quick shower, packed a bag, put on a nice dress, and headed home. I decided to alert those close to me about my decision to keep Shabbat, so that they wouldn’t send a search team my way or put my picture on the back of a milk carton. Finally came the last-minute preparations: I turned off my phone, my laptop, and the light in the fridge. I prepared the candles and lit them as my mom began reciting the blessing. I covered my eyes and prayed for a meaningful Shabbat and week ahead. As I opened my eyes, I thought, “Here goes nothing!”
If you know anything about Persian Shabbats, you know that they start late — like 8 p.m. late — so I had a couple of hours to spare before our guests arrived. It’s not like I was expecting an instantaneous spiritual awakening, but the beginning of my Shabbat was pretty anticlimactic, until I decided to spend that time catching up with my mom. Since I no longer live at home, our conversations usually revolve around my schoolwork, and her making sure I’m taking my vitamins and including fruits and vegetables in my diet. This conversation, however, had a lot more substance and was an amazing bonding experience.
When the guests finally arrived, I helped serve dinner and began conversing with my cousins. Not having my own phone in front of me allowed me to realize just how much everyone else was using theirs. I propositioned everyone to put their phones away for at least a few hours and to my surprise, they all listened. Without any distractions, the remainder of the night was an eye-opening experience to say the least. All of us were around the Shabbat table telling stories about our week, reminiscing over past events, cracking jokes, discussing current events and debating politics.
That night, I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time — probably because I didn’t have a computer screen to stare at before dozing off. In the morning I walked to temple, which is a pretty big deal because I rarely ever go to temple to begin with. During my walk I had the opportunity to truly appreciate the nature around me and be present in the moment (rather than stare at my phone). The service was nice, and I even learned some interesting things during the rabbi’s sermon. I then walked back home and had lunch with my family. Afterwards, I spent time with my brother and he taught me how to play backgammon.
Before I knew it, Shabbat was over. It was probably the most meaningful and mentally freeing 25 hours I have had in a while.
I will never forget that one time I kept Shabbat.