Mar 14, 2008

Can you sense the struggle in my words?

It was suggested that my e-free Shabbats would be easier if I planned out in advance what my plans were. I thought, "Geepers, that's a great idea," and here I am at 1:30 p.m. on a Friday with no clue what the Sabbath will hold for me. I thought, I should make Friday nights my dinner/movie night, since I've removed myself from regular shul attendance (an ordeal and issue all its own that I might touch on in a second). But what about Saturday? The days are getting longer. I can't spend all day napping, and I sure as hell can't spend all day at the tea shop reading. My attention span is that of a toddler. The weather has been outstanding, but it's supposed to drop a major 15-20 degrees over the weekend, so a stroll along the lake isn't completely out of the question, but doesn't sound as appetizing as it would have yesterday or today (where we've topped out in the upper 50s).

What do people DO on Shabbos?

I mean, people who A) Aren't Married or B) Don't Have kids or C) Spend all day at Shul or D) Sleep all Day. There's a lot of hours in a Shabbat day, folks.

I was reading this week's Torah portion last night, and mind you, we've hopped on into Leviticus, that great book of do's and don'ts that bring us into living a life of priests, a holy nation. There was a little spiel on how the book opens in the singular and slowly moves into the plural, and the author draws on this to come to the conclusion that attendance at shul is much like this -- one enters the sanctuary as an individual, but through prayer in community, one transcends to become a part of the larger Jewish community. I read this and felt this momentary rush of utter guilt.

You see (here's where I touch on my absence at shul), I'm just struggling with this idea of the shul as a social circus. The rabbis as bureaucrats. The entire thing as a production. I want organized chaos, not organized organization. I think I'm still struggling with missing my small shul back home, where it was comfortable, close-knit, where the people wanted so very much to be there, where it felt genuine. And ever since I read that book on Conservative Judaism, well, it reminded me of all the things I've always loathed about organized religion, why for so long I was devoutly religious, but in the sense that I believed, and I prayed, and I felt connected, but I didn't need a space or people. But then I think back to how lonely it was.

It's a very confusing, very heartbreaking thing I'm feeling. I'm so strong in my Jewishness, so settled into the ground I stand on, and yet, for some reason, something is just not completely right. So I'm exploring, evaluating, doting on me, to see what it is. To see what will make it better.

I keep telling myself that once I go off to school and have Hillel, it will be much like what I am used to, a small community over Shabbat dinners and services, holiday meals and festivities, something close, something personal.

Indeed, it's frustrating.

So it's now 1:42, and I'm still stuck on my plans. I should have told the Kosher Academic I was going to invade her place tonight, but I know her husband isn't well and I don't want to catch anything with my trips coming up. So maybe I'll just pick a movie, grab a nosh, and then read. I'll force myself out of bed, try to find some way to fill the space, reflective and full of prayer.

I'll get the hang of this Shabbos thing at some point.

5 comments:

Kat said...

Thanks Amanda!

as for what to do- have you thought about things like the Garfield Conservatory? It would certainly be peaceful and yet get you out of the house a bit.

zahavalaska said...

Chaviva,
I would think it would be certainly really hard to "fill up" Shabbat without shul or meals. Have you tried all the shuls around you? I used to live in a city with dozens and dozens and it can take time to find the right ones.
I live alone, too, so something I try to do is to prepare some special food or have a special snack on hand for Shabbat. Usually I can then spend my Shabbat afternoon (if I'm not out for a walk) in a mix of reading, noshing, and snoozing.
Another thing I have to say is that I've heard it said so many time with ritual, that adding a little at a time often "sticks" better than making a big jump. So maybe you don't need to not use the internet right now, but to make it Shabbat, you could frame it as reading Jewish websites only, no checking regular email?

chaviva said...

Kat -- good tip, actually. I wonder how my allergies would fair in there?

Zahava -- this is true. I do have a family that has extended Shabbat dinner/lunch to me whenever I want. There's another family, too, that has offered Shabbat dinner. I can't help but feel like I'm imposing, constantly, though. It's really strange. Luckily, this coming Shabbos will be filled with my little brother in town. And the next week is the 20s/30s sushi Shabbat. And then, then I'm back on my own! But baby steps are right, indeed. The first week wasn't bad at all. There were some other things -- that I didn't write about -- that kept me plugged in, actually. I'm trying to reevaluate that stuff so that it's easier for me to adapt.

But I'm rambling :)

zahavalaska said...

If these families have extended Shabbat hosptality to you, then they probably mean it. Take them up on it--you have a lot to add to their Shabbat experience, too. If you still feel like you're imposing, you can try to 'give back' to the family in other ways--watching the kids or helping cook one night during the week. Or just look around for something they need or could use (like more kids books or a special food they like) and buy it for them. :) It's a learning process and it's not like my shabbatot always work either!

KosherAcademic said...

Gosh, I wonder who these families are??

Seriously, though, you need to spend a Shabbat up by us (or at least an entire day). I'll give you the likutei - which lists all the different events, etc. going on for the day. There are talks, learning, divrei Torah, Seudat Shlishit, etc. There is so much you can do (that doesn't involved entertaining my kids). You probably should plan it out ahead of time, and you have to be brave and go to these things by yourself, but you'll love it. (And you can have time for a nap, too.)

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