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Why I Went to the Women’s March on Shabbat

Amy Finkelstein

Amy Finkelstein FB

They say that Shabbat is the day of rest, which I think is true only if you don’t have three small children. Shabbat in our house often resembles the three ring circus of the rest of the week, with finding lost shoes, cajoling people into eating a dinner they liked the week before, and hustling everyone out of the house to go to synagogue. Sure, we rarely have to be anywhere on time on Shabbat, but if we don’t leave the house, everyone starts to break down, so some of the weekday hustle and bustle is present, even on the day of rest.

There are a few things that distinguish our Shabbat from the rest of the week. We don’t cook, use electricity, and, to the constant chagrin of my children, draw or write. We do things we might not otherwise have time for, like building large and elaborate LEGO structures, having playdate with friends, or making forts out of the couch.

When I heard about the Women’s Marches all over the world, I knew I wanted to be there. When I heard they were happening on Shabbat, I felt conflicted. Should I go? Should I take my kids? Would it be confusing for them, since it was so far outside our normal Shabbat? Yes, I could walk to the march and not technically violate any of the rules of Shabbat, but would it be in the spirit of my family’s Shabbat observance?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the only answer was yes. The march was not only in the spirit of Shabbat but, in my mind, it was mandatory. I could not allow myself to sit at home as marchers streamed past our window and tell my children that Judaism, which preaches love and justice and compassion, was preventing us for standing up for our fellow human beings. I don’t want them to grow up with a Judaism that says much but does not compel them to act. The Judaism I am passing on mandates that our Jewish world and the world around us are intertwined. Sometimes that balance is tricky. This time, it did not feel that way.

Judaism teaches that Shabbat is a taste of the world to come. It also teaches that we have an obligation, in the words of my teacher Rabbi Sharon Brous who spoke at the DC march, to bridge the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be. The march showed me the world as it could be—people coming together to stand up for the vulnerable, fight for their rights, and make their voices heard, with peace and with dignity. As we stood shoulder to shoulder with so many people, I tasted the world to come. And as we chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” we could have easily chanted, “This is what Shabbat looks like.”


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The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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