Shabbat in the Modern World

A while ago now, I saw this post on the Velveteen Rabbi’s blog, titled Shabbat in the Modern World. My heart lept into my throat when I saw the blog title pop up on my Google Reader. How to observe Shabbat in the Modern World is a not-uncommon topic amongst my friends.

Velveteen Rabbi was not writing about the challenge of observing Shabbat in a modern world. Instead, she was writing about the gift of being able to celebrate Shabbat with her parents utilizing modern technology, specifically Sykpe. Her words were really touching, but not was I was expecting based on my own baggage with the topic.

So now, here I am, writing about the challenge of observing Shabbat in the modern world. For one, I live in a town that isn’t friendly to cyclists or walkers. In short, I have to drive everywhere. The only synagogue in town is several miles and a semi-major highway away from where I live, so I’m absolutely not walking to shul. Annnnnnnd … I work in a synagogue Sunday-Thursday. So it usually feels like work, not Shabbat to go back to shul on Friday night or Saturday morning for services. I could serve a traditional Shabbos dinner, but I always forget to bake challah until the absolute last minute (and, unfortunately, bread isn’t really something you can make at the last minute).

I do feel like, despite all of my excuses, I still have a desire to observe the Sabbath in some capacity, so I should do something. I should start somewhere. But where?!

For me, I touched on the answer of where I should start when I was reading 30 Ways to Make Yourself Happier This Shabbat on Kveller. I thought it was a good list full of good places to start. But 3 days later, only one of the suggestions comes to mind when I think of the article and the list.

#2 – Light candles on Friday night.

It just clicked in my head this morning. For me, this is the perfect, logical place to start. Just light the candles. Usher in the Sabbath. Jews light the candles at the beginning of Shabbat. In other words, it forces me to STOP. It forces me to stop and acknowledge that it is, in fact, Shabbat! No longer will my head hit the pillow with regret as I acknowledge that I “forgot” to do anything to observe Shabbat. Once I’ve lit the candles, they are lit and I can’t go anywhere. My mother taught me better than to leave the house with a candle burning. And once I’m home with my family, candles lit, then I have the chance to make the most of the Sabbath. I still don’t think that observing Shabbat in the Modern world is intuitive or easy. But now I know where I want to start.

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