But today was Shabbos. After keeping Shabbos for a decade I can honestly say that I do it by rote. I don't think much about the deep meanings in the prayers. I don't think about the specialness. I tell my kids about it. I say, "How can you fight today? Today's a day of peace!" But they are just words.
On top of that is the guilt. Sometimes I can't resist doing something I KNOW is forbidden. I pop zits. I floss even though my gums bleed sometimes. I pull out the yucky lettuce leaves from my salad without always pulling out some good ones too. Sometimes I even purposely get water on the bugs in the bathroom sink so they'll drown. And more.
To someone non-observant this may sound so silly. Such a nothing to get upset about! I'm not hurting anyone. It's not even like I ran over a cat in the road. (Sympathy to my neighbors who recently lost a cat. IT WASN'T ME, I SWEAR!)
But to a Baal Teshuva, these can seem like the deadliest of sins. And hating myself for knowingly and compulsively doing them, has only pulled me away from truly experiencing oneg Shabbos, the true JOY of Shabbos.
So today I'm sitting around with my seven year old. And he asks, all philosophically, as is his way, if I ever wonder if this is all a dream. "Like all of this. Well not all of it. But, like, maybe I'm in my old bed, in our old house in Pittsburgh, and I'm dreaming about this whole farm thing. You know? Do you think it could be, Mom?"
Sigh. Wishful thinking I guess.
So I started telling him about how, although I do not believe that any part of this life is an actual dream, I do believe that reality is much different than how we experience it. Kind of like being on a REALLY long car ride. I said, "You know how you and your sister start out ok. But by the end of the driveway you're like, 'how much longer? I'm hungry? I'm bored. What's to eat? Can I listen to my music?' Blah blah blah. And I tell you guys that's it's ok to be bored, and it may take a little while, and you may even get hungry, but that's ok, because we're not driving just to drive, we're going somewhere and you'll have all those things when we get there.
"So, I think our lives are kind of like that. We think we need super yummy food, and big, fun houses, and lots of toys. But this is just the drive. When Mashiach comes, and we live in Olam HaBa (translation: when the Messiah comes and we live in the World to Come) we'll be there, and we'll have what we were really yearning for this whole time."
Yeah, a bit lofty, but seven year olds can be pretty lofty people.
That all got me thinking about how Shabbos is supposed to be a taste of Olam HaBa, and by keeping the laws of Shabbos, we're getting a glimpse into that wondrous future.
So, what I have to look forward to is uncontrollable urges to pop zits, and self hate when I give in?! No thanks. Stop the car. I'd rather get out right here, than get to THAT destination.
But as you know, I've also been in a questioning phase. A scary, lonely, doubt filled phase. And in this phase I ask myself now, Do I need to hate myself for breaking Shabbos. Can I instead pray that I feel such a strong connection to Shabbos that the very idea of breaking Shabbos is abhorrent to me? And if my prayer isn't answered right away, can I be little bit, dare I say, loving and compassionate to my flawed self? And recognize that I am a work in progress?
So all these thoughts are flying around in my head, sometimes bumping into each other. Sometimes getting a little crazy and making little offspring thoughts and they are young and wild and unafraid, and I don't even know what these belligerent youths will do next without some strong guidance.
But the next thing you know, my husband gets up from his nap. And apparently it is time for our tea party. This is what my family did when I was in NY with my sister last Shabbos. And this week I was invited to join them.
A bottle of sparkling apple cider was poured into the tiny, ceramic teapot. Each little plate had some berries, chocolate chips, and some sprinkles left over from my two year old's birthday party. Next some mini chocolate sundrops go into the teeny tiny sugar bowl. And finally some more apple cider goes into the little cream bowl.
"What kind of tea are we having?" asks my husband in the worst English accent I have ever heard.
"Moose Bumps!" (???)
These are just some of the suggested flavors. And they were all combined in different ways.
"Some sugar?" asks my husband. And the kids gleefully add drops of these tiny, colored chocolate bits to their sparking cider.
It was beyond disgusting. And amazing. And every two minutes I had to stop myself from intervening and saying, don't you think that's enough chocolate sprinkles?
The kids were HAPPY. I was HAPPY. I was really HAPPY. We were all getting along. There was nothing that HAD to be done at that time, at that table, other than enjoy the bounty of sugar and laughs in front of us.
When it was all over, the bottle of cider emptied to its last drop, the kids were ready to do something with all their newfound energy. Going outside wasn't an option as it was still storming pretty hard. So we played Guesstures. All of us. There weren't any actually rules and no one kept score. But man, was it a blast!
For one of my clues I got the word crazy. I often feel like, in my family, that with everyone's large personalities and tempers, someone has to always remain slightly in control. And that someone has to be me. Not to mention that the idea of being totally out of control scares the %#*& out of me.
But when I saw that word, I smiled and let it rip. I jumped around. I made
Faces. I hooped and hollered and swung my head all around and just went nutso.
It fet SO good.
And right then I KNEW. I knew that this, that all of this, was what Shabbos was. It was tea parties with too much sugar and terrible English accents. It meant games and silliness and laughter. It meant letting go.
Next week, as I am full on in weekday mode, I know that I won't quite remember the full joy I felt today. But that's ok. Because I'll remember that I felt joy. And I'll know that next Shabbos will mean a different kind of joy. Because next Shabbos we'll all be different. Because I can't replicate a moment. But I can let go of one, and make room for whatever is next on this long road trip called life.
Did you see that? Did you see the metaphor come back and bring the blog full circle? That was great!
1. Moments of today
2. My husband's English accent
3. My husband trying to get the kids to box step after the tea party
4. Philosophical seven year olds.