For many years when my kids were still at home, we would rush home from work, get a nice Shabbat dinner made and eaten (for us, always chicken and rice) and rush to Shabbat evening services. We’d sit down in the same pew, of course, right behind our friends Hilde and Lou and take a breath. Ah! Then I would realize that that was the first long, full breath of the week. The hustle and bustle of work and kids and life had come to a halt for that week. Shabbat had come and all else had stopped, or at least slowed down. A time to breathe. A time to be thankful. A time to remember to add holiness to our everyday lives. A time to come together as a community – a Jewish community.
My Jewish community is the same, and yet very different than most of my friends’ Jewish communities. I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Jewish population is approximately 65 families. The Jewish population of the entire State of South Dakota is about 150 families. And yet, we have Jewish life and activities here that are so similar to everywhere else. Same but different.
That similarity is what I love about being Jewish, and about observing Shabbat. When I travel, with Hadassah to Israel or to my family around the United States, I feel at home. Many of the same foods, the same prayers, the same tunes, the same family and community feeling. The same Shabbat peacefulness that makes it different than the rest of the week.
Do we go to Shabbat services weekly? No. Do we do something special weekly for Shabbat? Yes. Light the candles. Make kiddush. Eat our Shabbat chicken and rice. Sit down at the dining room table together for dinner. Breathe. Slow down the pace for a day, or even just an evening.
At Mt. Zion in Sioux Falls, we do not have a full-time, or even a part-time rabbi. We participate in the student rabbi program from Hebrew Union College and a student rabbi serves our congregation bi-monthly during the school year. One of those students many years ago told our families to not look at Shabbat as an all or nothing. Could we just add one thing to our lives that would make Shabbat different and separate from the rest of the week? All sit down to dinner together. A favorite meal. Lighting Shabbat candles. Saying Kiddush. Bake challah together as a family. Then maybe add another thing. Just make it special. Our congregation for the last four years has held a First Friday Family Shabbat Potluck Dinner at the Temple. It’s a special meal which brings us together as a community. Any size community could do this. Or a family could do this with friends. We all look forward to being together for Shabbat every month.
How does one start? Don’t think of the negatives – what you are not allowed to do on Shabbat. Think of Shabbat as a gift for the week. It’s a time to recharge and to be grateful. Shabbat. A time to breathe. A time to be thankful. A time to remember to add holiness to our everyday lives. Give it a try!