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Mar 22 2013

Friday Night: Do Passover Your Own Way

By at 10:01 am

plastic wine cupsPassover is my favorite Jewish holiday. A meal and story followed by an entire week of daily (albeit minimal) sacrifices made in mindful celebration of our ancestors’ exodus from Egypt. Admittedly I can’t pass up an opportunity to smear horseradish on things and the beet juice variety literally makes me swoon. I’m excited to pull out the little book collection for our boys and tuck matzah into the afikomen bag I sewed myself. For eight days, the usual chore of dinner gives way to a food challenge where none of the usual players are allowed. And the last day I always get a text from my husband that says, “can we eat real food tonight?” and we head out for burgers after sundown. The kitchen is cleaned out and we start fresh when the week is over.

I am a Jew by choice married to a humbly secular tribe member. We light candles every Friday, pay temple dues and with each passing year grow more in our observance. Do we throw away every bit of chametz? No. We can’t afford to. What we didn’t consume prior to the holiday, we box up in plastic tubs and lock it away in our storage unit. Does that make us less Jewish? I hope not. To gentiles we seem like uber-Jews while Orthodox families may scoff at our attempts at Halacha. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 15 2013

Friday Night: I Chose My Kids (and Shabbat) Over a Job

By at 2:49 pm

fresh baked challahHere’s the thing. I actually did try to lean in. I updated my resume, sent it out, and dug out the blazer I only wear to interviews. I answered the standard questions about why I want the job (because biweekly midnight visits to the ER with croupy kids aren’t keeping me busy enough, apparently), what my weaknesses are (chocolate, pudgy-faced toddlers, and men who fold laundry), and how I would feel about being the only post-doc with kids (um, great?).

To be honest, I’m still not sure what happened at the interview. Perhaps I sabotaged myself. As perfect as the job was, and as much as my husband and friends assured me that we could make it work, I just couldn’t quite figure out how our family would function with both us working full time. I know millions of American families (including many of my neighbors and friends) do it, but all I could think about was laundry piling up, last minute emergency trips to the grocery store for milk, and strawberry-banana yogurt, and hushed but heated conversations about who was going to take a sick day to stay home with a feverish child. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 8 2013

Friday Night: BAM BOOM! BAM BOOM! BAM BOOM!

By at 11:55 am

baby girl listening to music with headphonesThat is how my daughter says, “Bim Bam.” As in, “Bim, bam, bim bim bim bam, bim bim bim bim bim bam.” Sing it with me if you will. I know this song inside and out. In fact, I am kind of an expert. I sing this little ditty approximately 4,000 times a day. Baby G is 18 months old, and Bim Bam is rocking her world. Baby G does not want to sing it herself, of course. In fact, she doesn’t actually want to sing it at all. She prefers to have it performed for her. By me. And who could blame her? I am the Lady Gaga of Bim Bam.

Little kids love repetition. You know that thing inside us adults that finds about 99% of things in the world annoying if we have to hear them more than twice? Yeah, little kids don’t have that. In fact, it’s just the opposite. When little kids find something they like, they like the hell out of it. As in, “Let’s make that thing I like aural and visual wallpaper for every waking second of my life–and then, when I wake up from my nap, we’re going to do it ALL OVER AGAIN! YEAH!” Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 1 2013

Friday Night: Reuniting with Dad on Shabbat

By at 1:07 pm

familiy meal with mom dad and kidsTamara’s experience of Friday night, erev Shabbos, is very different than my own. To me, as a young child, Friday night was extra special precisely because my father was always there.

When I was a kid, my father traveled for business. He would leave on Sunday night, my mother, siblings, and I tearfully waving him off as he waited for the elevator. He would return Friday morning or late Thursday night. Every single week for as long as I can remember. Read the rest of this entry →

From the Department of Rude: A Memo on Smart Phone Use at Shul

By at 9:46 am

I have a hard time staying away from my iPhone. Too often my phone is on the table during lunch with a friend. I’m drawn to it while standing in line or whenever there’s two minutes to spare. Trust me, I’m not proud of my attachment to the thing. In my defense, I at least draw the line at using my phone inside the walls of a synagogue.

It seems that not using cell phones in shul was once standard practice among all synagogue goers from the most frequent to the occasional bar mitzvah attendees. I’m afraid those days are long gone. At a family “Tot Shabbat” service I recently attended at our Conservative synagogue (where the laws of Shabbat are technically observed) I noticed several parents and kids playing around with phones. During the dinner that followed, I saw some of the younger tots distracted with iPads.

It was disheartening. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 25 2013

Friday Night: Too Tired for Shabbat?

By at 9:26 am

shabbat challah wine and candlesLately, I have been desperately seeking Shabbat.

At least I think I am and then I wonder if I’m just wishing the week away. Wishing away another seven days of snow and cold; tantrums and snotty noses. During the week, dinner is a mad dash to bedtime. My toddler gets more on the floor than he does in his mouth, the dishes seem like an impossible task plagued by the absence of a garbage disposal, and don’t even get me started on bath and bedtime. Times two.

The end of the day is hard and I’m rarely coherent enough to be mindful or graceful in my execution of motherhood. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 4 2013

How Veggie Tales Prompted a Jewish Conversation About God

By at 9:37 am

On a recent road trip, we stopped along the way to refuel–nurse the baby, potty break for the preschooler, and load up on snacks.

Right next to the snacks, of course, was a stand filled with DVDs for kids. Our 3-year-old wanted one, and since we were about to be in the car for another four hours (the trip from Brooklyn to Montreal is lo-ong), we acquiesced. We picked out what looked like the least scary and most preschooler-friendly on the shelf–something called Best of Veggie Tales–a top ten song countdown. What could be wrong with singing vegetables? Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 2 2012

Friday Night: Shabbat is a Feeling, Not a Routine

By at 1:41 pm

empty hotel roomDriving past towns and daylight and whining, we make our way to my husband’s home town.

I note the sun setting in slices against open fields. Miles of blues and oranges blending together above corn and cows and red tinted barns as Friday makes its way into Saturday.

The kids are immersed in their movie, and we’re just a titch beyond pointing out the animals, the fields, the memories that make this road trip something different.

We haven’t been here for years. But today we drive into town, and tomorrow we’ll visit my husband’s sick grandfather. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 1 2012

Surviving Shabbat At the (Ultra-Orthodox) In-Laws

By at 10:27 am

“I’d rather shove a fork in my eye.”

That was my response when my husband said his parents called and asked if we’d like to come spend the last Shabbat of Sukkot with them in the ultra-Orthodox community my husband, children and I recently moved out of. It wasn’t any one thing in particular that gave me the knee-jerk, panic-stricken reaction to shout, “NO!”

In part, it was the fact that my relationship with my in-laws has been cordial but not particularly warm. It was the idea of spending 24 hours in a place where I’d never felt like myself. And much more basic than that, I hate packing my boys and all their belongings up and taking them somewhere unfamiliar to spend the night. They don’t ever sleep well, which means I don’t sleep well and that translates into one miserable weekend for everyone. My husband said, “Think about it and we’ll let them know tomorrow.” Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 18 2012

My Orthodoxy Doesn’t Look Like That Orthodoxy

By at 12:02 pm
Serving up cholent for Shabbat.

Serving up cholent on Shabbat.

Everyone takes their own journey and I was interested in Yael Armstrong’s account of hers. I was sorry, though, that she did not distinguish among the different types of Orthodoxy in the Jewish community. Because despite the fact that “Orthodox” literally means “true belief,” or “one way,” there are many ways that one can be considered an Orthodox, or “Ortho-prax,” Jew today. Read the rest of this entry →

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