Lately, 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.
Except on Friday night. Friday night I plan out a nice meal that will make everyone happy. Mid-afternoon I pile my chubby infant into the baby carrier and skip hand-in-hand with my toddler to the Jewish market across the street. He runs straight for the fresh bread display and grabs a salt stick, which he eats immediately (and I sometimes forget to pay for). We choose a challah and grab any stray ingredients that I may need for dinner. While my kids nap I prep the meal. When I cook Shabbat dinner I think about how proud I am of my family. I think about how amazing it is that in a month my infant will be having his first taste of solid food and that my toddler can say most all of the prayers from memory. But what I look forward to the most is sitting down with my family to light the candles and be together.
And then I realize that my husband won’t make it home for dinner again this week.
His job is demanding and he misses more dinners than he attends, but it’s Shabbat dinner that stings the most. We’re going on three weeks without him at our table and I know he would rather be obnoxiously singing Dinosaur Shabbat than be stuck at work. On these nights the Sabbath feels like any other stressful night of solo-parenting and I tend to fall into a familiar rushed nightly routine. You know you’re tired when you reach into the china cabinet to pull out the kiddish cup only to realize it is FULL OF LAST WEEK’S WINE. True story.
As I carefully pulled that crusty yucky silver cup out of the cabinet my toddler ran over to grab his kippah and the challah cover from the drawer and I said, “Not tonight, sweetheart. We’ll use those next week if Daddy is home.”
As the words left my mouth and I watched his face crumple with disappointment, my heart sank.
What am I saying?! It takes 30 seconds to put on a kippah and challah cover. We only want to savor a nice dinner and light candles if Daddy is here? What kind of message is this sending to my children? I don’t have time for a day of rest, but GOD did? What kind of self-righteous bullshit is that for my religiously-enthusiastic son to soak in? GIANT. MAMA. FAIL.
And then I thought to myself, “Would I light the candles and pray if I were alone on Shabbat?”
The answer, in that moment of bleary-eyed-end-of-the-week-Mama dinner rush, was a resounding no.
And then my own face crumpled with disappointment. I pulled out my toddler’s kippah and the challah cover. I served us dinner on our nice plates and we talked about our day while my infant cooed and smiled at us. Yes, there was a Daddy missing but Shabbat came anyway and the candles burned brightly over my beautiful children.
Home is where Shabbat lives. It is waiting patiently for us at the end of the week. I can almost taste it as I cook our meal and I can see it in my toddler’s eyes. Shabbat quietly whispers for me to slow down, cover the challah, sing to your children, and be mindful that no matter how many things you’ve done in the last seven days, someone else has done more with less.
A great philosopher once asked: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I believe that God hears everything fall. And if I were to find myself alone on Shabbat, God would hear my prayer.