My family’s weekly Shabbat is from sundown on Friday to Saturday night when three stars twinkle in the sky; we added Sunday’s Eco-Shabbat theme to our Saturday and Sunday for some extra relaxation and joy this weekend. I am far from Orthodox or Conservative in my observance of Shabbat, but this difference in observance does not change the importance of Shabbat to me and my children. I love Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel‘s description of Shabbat as “a palace in time“. I strive to keep and remember Shabbat by building a palace in time with my family each week.
Every Friday afternoon, we do our best to tidy up the week’s clutter around the house, and definitely in the dining room and living room. Then we turn to making things sweet and beautiful. The kids each have their own special vase used only on Shabbat, and we like to fill these with finds from our yard – Even in the dead of winter, there are bits of beauty we can bring inside to grace our table: Bare twigs from our willow tree, feathers dropped by the Steller’s Jays that raid our bird feeder, dried leaves and seed heads. We make our favorite dinner and dessert, we put on our favorite music, then we light our candles and say the Shabbat blessings. Sometimes we sing out loud, we share our favorite moments from the past week and things we’re grateful for. My main rules for Shabbat are this: We do things as a family, things that bring us joy, things that are not our jobs or regular work. We don’t spend money to buy things, although we do sometimes spend money on experiences (to catch a ferry to see friends, a trip to the zoo). I try very, very hard to find ways to say “yes!” whenever my kids ask me a question: Can you read this book to me right this minute? Can I play outside in the snow wearing only my underpants and my glittery sandals? Yes, if it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone, yes! Admittedly, our whole Shabbat observance is a work in progress, with things shifting and changing over time as I figure out what feeds the holiness of the day and what erodes that palace in time.
I know, I know, my level of observance doesn’t count as observant at all in the eyes and hearts of many of my faith. That’s OK with me; I’m working with all my heart, all my soul, all my might (or all my “very” as one of my rabbis likes to translate it) to live my life so that the still, small voice within me sings in joy, and that’s enough for me. As Rabbi Shefa Gold writes, “You must dig down beneath the soil of your everyday life and find its holiness.” I find that making Shabbat every week helps us to do that.
The traditional rules of observance for Shabbat are eco-friendly at their core. Some of the modern practices, such as leaving lights on for the duration of Shabbat, so as to avoid both stumbling in the dark and having to flip the switch between off and on, seem to have an impact on the earth that isn’t kadosh (holy). Of course, my own practice of driving my car to meet friends at the beach on Shabbat must have an even worse impact.
We talked about this on Sunday, and I think we’re all agreed that we’ll start adding some of the more traditional Shabbat practices regarding use of resources to our own observance. I like this intersection of the No Impact Project and my own spiritual path.