Ok, its not Shabbat that’s crazy. It’s me. Slightly neurotic, but also vulnerable by all the changes. After keeping it for 2 Â½ months â€“ something had to give.
I spent 2 weekends ago in Tel Aviv at a friend’s place â€“ and being outside of a conducive environment, I saw how hard it was for me to keep. Its one thing in Jerusalem, and one thing in my own space here in Arad, but in someone else’s place, even with their hospitality, it wasn’t easy â€“ but the difficulty wasn’t really the problem. The problem was how being out of context only pointed to my feeling that some of the more absurd Shabbat prohibitions didn’t really fly for me – which made me really stop and wonder what the heck I was doing anyway with this whole thing, and made me realize that I wasn’t â€˜holding’ where I thought I was.
Here’s just one example of what I’m talking aboutâ€¦
He: Why didn’t you put the juice you bought in the fridge?
Me: Cause I didn’t want to turn on the light in the fridge when I open it.
He: But it will go bad.
Me: No it won’t, its just juice, not dairy.
He: What if I open the fridge and put it in for you?
Me: No, cause then I won’t be able to get it out.
After which he was nice enough to turn off the light in the fridge so I could retrieve my juice freely, but that’s not really the point. The point is, in this little encounter I realized how ridiculous I felt – Do I really think the creator of the universe gives a heck about the status of mini lightbulb in his refridgerator? Uh, no. Ok, yeah, a spark is created and that creative action brings something from nothingness, but, um, so what? I guess I realized how empty my observance was. (Note: not how empty the observance is, per se)
Naturally, I have to reconsider it all â€“ the truth is I took it all on at once, which anyone will tell you is unhealthy, but how do you then â€˜take parts off’?
The day seemed filled with little moments like that â€“ of me realizing how meaningless some of the things I was doing felt. I washed a dish off and squeezed the sponge and remembered that wasn’t ‘allowed.’ I had ripped toilet paper but they threw it out not knowing what it was. The feeling was just a culmination of many little moments. Eventually, I went to the park on the river near his house to study Hebrew, but I found myself unable to concentrate and was just staring at the people â€“ talking on their cellphones, playing sports, BBQing, walking their dogs, picnicking, and on motor boats, having a pleasant day, and I realized that here I was, trying to keep Shabbat, but I felt imprisioned by all the melachot â€“ and even though some of these people were doing exactly what ought not to be done on a Saturday, I felt like they, in some ways, were having a more authentic Shabbat than me. This realization made my eyes wet. Later back at my friend’s place, his roommate was with her boyfriend in the living room, so I went into his bedroom in the back and just turned on the light – thinking sitting in a dark room for two hours wouldn’t help my mental situation. In a while they left and I went and stared out his big picture window for what seemed like forever. When my friend came back I had to buzz him in. Oops. But even more oops was that when he walked in I was sitting at his window drawing the view to relax a little. “What about the Shabbat?,” he questioned, and I think the cumlinating breakdown began with my answer which chimed something to the tune of, “F*ck Shabbat [sob, sob, sob…]”
Consequently, what it becomes for me is unclear at this point â€“ I struggled with this question all last week. If I’m going to pick and choose which parts I want to keep, why do any of it at all? Maybe I shouldn’t. Is this the path that I really want? Isn’t what my family did when I was a child enough? Or isn’t it? Do I really believe this hubbub to be the absolute truth that it claims to be? Didn’t I spend like $80,000 on a college education that told me that there was no such thing as absolute truth? â€¦
And then Shabbat came again – this thing doesn’t stop.
I read some books on Saturday to help clarify things. The book about Conservative Judaism enabled me to be able to breathe again. The Orthodox-perspective book on Shabbat then complicated the new found ease. But despite the dueling banjos, come the new week, Gd help me, the Shabbat anxiety persisted.
However, tonight I was making guacamole and things became a little elucidated. I think avocados have a tendency to do that. I thought to myself, â€œIf Shabbat is a day where I make lovely meals and enjoy what I like, then, yes, I can do this. Maybe that’s enough for now.â€ Yeah, this is a good way to look at it – I like guacamole, so guacamole every week! It will be a Thursday night ritual. Yes, Guacamole. Guacamole=Shabbat, and I felt so much better.
But then I thought about the fat contentâ€¦