Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shabbat in My Own Way

One of the privileges of being a non-member is the freedom to adopt the religious traditions that have meaning for you and reject the ones that don’t. For example, I love shabbat. I love the ritual of bread and wine and candles and the idea of gathering at home at the end of the week for a meal, for leisure and rest. The idea of separating an evening and the following day from the other activities of life. Shabbat’s meaning for me is more personal, domestic, and—when others are around—social or familial, but I truly enjoy the feelings generated by shabbat. I do not say payers; I do not keep kosher; and I almost never avoid working on any day—Saturday included. As a non-believer, I am not bound by the mitzvot, but I love the peacefulness—the shalom—that this ritual brings.

So my observance of shabbat is somewhat haphazard. Yesterday was Friday, and after work I went to the grocery store and bought a challah. I have discovered that, when none are displayed, you can often get a frozen one from the person working in the bakery section. They must keep them on hand for the end of the week.

I had decided I would go to an early movie, so I grabbed a bite to eat at a Chinese restaurant before the show, eating dinner with The New York Times. I had pork, but at least I had pork in the location where Jews most often encounter treyf. And, of course, I don’t keep kosher.

After the movie I went home and lit two shabbos candles. No prayers, of course, and because I had already eaten and it was now 9:30, long after the prescribed candle lighting time, no bread or fruit of the vine. When it was time to go to bed, I broke another rule by blowing out one candle that looked far from burning out. According to tradition, once lit, the candles should not be moved or extinguished. They should be left to burn out on their own.

In the end, I performed only small pieces of the ritual. I lit candles, and I have my weekend challah for French toast. But it was enough to have a feeling of shabbat.

Shabbat is not really a sabbath for me. For me, it is a secular ritual. But I have found it to be a wonderful way to mark the time of the week and add a bit of peace to my life. So I am thankful for shabbat and for the freedom to observe it in my own way.

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