Sabbath.

 

It’s late summer, Friday night dinner. Annie is at a birthday party. Just Jane, our 12-year old boy, and me. We sit on the patio in our backyard. Candles, a wine glass, and a challah I made.

Jane made meatloaf. 

Emmett and I look at each other knowing we will be making an exception to our pescatarian diets. Jane’s cooking is exceptional – and she will laugh to read this – she cooks only on rare exception.

The two candles are burning. The challah is still warm from the oven. The butter, at room temperature, awaits. The wine in the kiddish cup is actually the remainder of the tonic water that went into the adults’ drinks.

I am more concerned about the law’s spirit than letter. I run religion-outside-the-box after all. 

The sabbath supposed to be a delight and a joy – nothing to get into a tizzy about.

“So, what’s one thing that you think about more than you wish you did, and one thing that you wish you thought more about?” I ask.

Our tradition after the three Hebrew blessings with thematic and very loose English translations is for everyone at the table to ask and then answer a question.

When we started this sabbath practice 20+ years ago, Jane and I kept to the same question, “What does everyone at the table mean to you?”

When they got older, the kids introduced their own questions and then we spent the meal time going around the table asking then answering each other’s questions. 

“If you could be a superhero, who would you be?” 

“What animal do you think is everyone at the table’s spirit animal?” 

“What’s your favorite food?” 

Tonight, we start with my question: “What’s one thing that you think about more than you wish you did, and one thing that you wish you thought more about?”

I answer, “I think about religion stuff all the time. And, I wish I did more long-term planning.”

Jane laughs, “I’ve got the opposite. I wish I had a relationship with God these days. And I wish I wasn’t thinking about long-term planning.” 

She adds, “And I wish you’d plan.”

We all laugh.

 Emmett mentions how he is thinking too much about Minecraft, a video-game. And then he monologues about the session of the game he, Ben W., and Sam R. were playing hours earlier.

“…the farm we built was right next to the river, which meant that some of the time the fruit fell into the water, and we couldn’t get it, and then some of the potatoes got poisoned?”

It wasn’t a question. But his voice often goes up at the end of sentences.“Then I found 30 diamonds in a mine. Which is a lot. So I bought turtles. Which aren’t new. The bees are. We have to download the patch to get the update with the bees….”

 We eat as he continues: the carrot farm, the red stones, and the spiders – which can give you the string you need to make a fishing line.  

 It doesn’t matter that we aren’t following our usual Friday night dinner pattern or that we don’t get to anyone else’s questions.

The sabbath is about taking time off from busyness – to be present to the mundane – and to see the holy in the ordinary. 

We “uh-huh” and nod, asking the occasional question.

“The villagers can’t be moved unless you’ve gotten them into boats first. But then sleeping villagers can get out of the boats…”

I don’t understand. I doubt Jane does either.

I catch Jane’s eye. She winks. I smile.

Ah, shabbat.

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Anxiety. Not so bad?

Anxiety. Not so bad?

ANXIETY. NOT SO BAD?   Notes: This material is based on an interview I conducted with Brent Lyons, a PhD candidate at Oxford University studying the intersection of anxiety and religion While this technique provides an intellectual understanding of anxiety that...

read more
Hope, synthesized

Hope, synthesized

“I’m proud of you. You are taking two whole nights away, just for yourself,” I hear Larry say. I re-tuck the microphone of my headset into my facemask to muffle the wind for when I talk. “Larry, it’s more that they sent me. Is that better? Can you hear me better now?”...

read more