Rest and relaxation. Everyone needs it in their lives. For the Jewish people, that is commanded through the mitzvah of Shabbat. It has taken on a more significant meaning to me as I have continued through graduate school, through the great place known as Northwestern Hillel.
When I was younger, on most Shabbat evenings, I would spend it with family at home, as I would listen to music, play games with my siblings, or such. After my burnout from my bar mitzvah, Shabbat evenings (and days) generally seemed just like ordinary days to me, although I normally refrained from doing homework on those days.
As I began to see Judaism and practicing again once I got to college, going to services regularly (or at least semi-regularly!) on Friday evenings and/or Saturday mornings became important to me. The luncheons on Saturday, especially, were good for me as I got to improve my conversation skills while being in the completely relaxed environment of the social hall at Congregation Tifereth Israel.
Once I got to Northwestern, I have made going to at least one service each Shabbat a priority of mine. Almost invariably, that includes Friday night, for many reasons. First of all, the community that I feel at Hillel is a close-knit and enjoyable-to-be-around group of people. Whether I’m chatting with the same people from week to week or meeting some new faces, the social aspects are wonderful there.
Additionally, of course, services are one of the reasons I go to Hillel. Since I grew up in an area without much “Jewish culture,” most of my Jewish upbringing was developed at the synagogue through the rituals (i.e. services). Even this brings discovery for me, as different leaders may use different tunes in the same liturgy, and have a different take in other methods. I attempt to take home at least one message from each D’var Torah, and you never know what will speak to you. Something else that I have noticed is that depending on the people in the congregation on any given night, the timbre and tone of the tunes has a subtle difference, and I seem to be in tune to that.
Free food after services is one reason I enjoy going to Hillel as well, but I just consider that to be a bonus, with the services and socialization to be the main reason. I find it imperative to be a part of a community that you feel comfortable in, and having a regular place in which that happens is great. Although I don’t often see my friends from Hillel outside of that capacity, it makes each Shabbat something to eagerly await.
The way I see it is that no matter how difficult of a day or week I have had, once Shabbat rolls around, I allow my stresses to fly out the window. I have noticed this on even some times before I was a regular at services, most noticeably on June 1, 2007. I actually will be writing a blog post about June 1, 2007 in 13 days (on June 1, 2012), so stay tuned for that which I have just foreshadowed!
During this week’s Shabbat, the time outside of meals and services was nice, because most of the small crowd that was still there after dinner took a walk to accompany some people on their way to the Meor house. The night was absolutely perfect for walking, and honestly, I have never taken a Shabbat joy-walk. It would be great to do with other people, because part of the joy of Shabbat is sharing it with others.
And in the lobby of Hillel, there is always either conversation, board games, or card games being played. The game Settlers of Catan seems to be popular among some of the Orthodox students, and I have been kibitzing a few times this weekend. I also played spades and had a great time, and conversations, like always, can be so varied, and you tend to lose track of time when engaged in them. And on Shabbat, this is a good thing! Why worry about the time?
It is said that observance of Shabbat is done in two ways: שמור (keep/guard) and זכור (remember). The latter word rings much more to me, as it basically is the commandment to enjoy the day. Although I do not “keep” all the commandments associated with the day (i.e. not doing any sort of “work”), I make it a high priority to spend time with people and be part of a community.
Today’s counts and nugget:
Today is the 19th day of MAPLE.
אתמול היה שניים וארבעים יום, שהם שישה שבועות לעמר
With whom you are is more important than where you are.
Friday’s Score was 12-7; today’s Score was 11-21.