When we first moved into our new home, we found that “fifteen-or-twenty-minutes-away” temple to put down roots for both spirituality and community. Each Friday night my family met familiar congregants, made new friends, and slowly established our role in this new “village”.
Given these early days, my family would sit through “adult” Friday evening Shabbat services with our seven-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. It was she who asked to go from the early children’s service straight into the adult one. It was he who would often fall asleep at the call to worship, awaking for the final benediction and sweet-laden Oneg — much to the amusement of the adult choir that watched him from the bema.
As families with like-aged children started coming to Shabbat, the kids found their own row of pews to sit and listen – respectfully in front of the adults. At the Oneg, much to the chagrin of the elders, they sat quietly and played card games, the emphasis on “sat quietly” even though that wasn’t the best example of Shabbat and rest.
In short, Shabbat was not only a spiritual respite but a learning experience during these days. The kids participated in the children’s/youth/teen choirs while their repeated exposure gave them the comfort and familiarity to work through their Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s with some ease.
And we were the stalwarts attending weekly, the “go-to” adults for ushering, candle lighting or announcements from the Bema whenever the designated congregant was a no show, or it was a secular holiday weekend.
As Shabbat became increasingly a time for my husband and me to attend alone, we respectfully called Friday nights “cheap date night”. We would find respite in an untraditional early Shabbat dinner of pizza at the Italian restaurant across the street from the temple, with a walk through the variety discount store in the same strip mall if there was time.
Pre-Shabbat was a catch-up time for us as a couple, layered with discussions of recent family drama and new ideas for blog posts before we set it all aside for Shabbat peace.
And along with that peace there were the prayers, the music, the theme, and sermon that we carefully listened to and relied on as the basis for late night conversation as we headed home or prepared for bed.
Shabbat was meant for peace. With all the relentless tragedy in our world I never actively considered it a “shelter from life’s storms.” But it is. And however, we have chosen to acknowledge and celebrate it, it has been a not just wine and grape juice and challah, but much more about fellowship, hope and faith.
Lauren B. Lev is a member of the Hadassah Educators Council.