Some Thoughts Before Shabbat
As I sit in a coffee shop in Brookline in the later afternoon, writing these words I can’t help but feel that I am actually somewhere else, or perhaps more accurately, that I should be somewhere else. I don’t feel like this every Shabbat, but when the weather gets warm and the days longer, I often find myself wishing I were on Israel on Friday afternoons.
For all of the insane running around to get things done before stores close or trying to make last-minute plans before people turns their phones off, there is something magical about being in Israel at the end of the week. Streets which are normally filled with speeding, anxious drivers become quiet, sidewalks bustling with pedestrians in a rush become passable, and later in the evening, families and groups of friends make their way home, walking at a leisurely pace that is otherwise rare in a nation which often seems to be in a perpetual rush.
Of course there were times when I was annoyed that everything was closed, or I got tired of having to make all of my weekend plans a week in advance, but somehow, in the whole 8 months that I lived in Israel this last time around, there was not a single Friday night when I did not have an invitation to a Shabbat dinner. For all of the problems that Israel may have, whether in the realm of domestic infrastructure or foreign policy there is a transformation that takes place every Friday as the worries of the week are temporarily put on hold. I think this is one of the reasons that I personally go to Shabbat services, because I want to take a moment and step out of the normally hectic flow of work and study and reconnect not only with the ancient words and ideas that have been the glue that has held Judaism together since the Temple was destroyed, but to be in a Jewish space, with other Jews. I’m guessing that this is true for other people as well, and probably has been, for thousands of years. I suppose it’s not so strange a thing, after all, since I have always felt that one of the reasons that Jewish life and culture have survived for so long is because these rituals bring us together.
Daniel E. Levenson
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
The New Vilna Review