Around the world, people say TGIF (thank goodness it’s Friday). Here in Israel, the equivalent for the world’s Friday is actually Thursday – our last day in the work week, our chance to look forward to the weekend. Then comes Friday. For many of us, we don’t sleep late. Rather, we work harder on Friday than we do many of the other days of the week. But it’s the kind of work that gives instant gratification. We boss ourselves; we create for ourselves.
We cook so that our homes smell like what heaven must smell like. We clean or we celebrate the cleanliness of the home we’ve worked hours to clean on other days. We shower and dress up (or down to relax). Things we put off all week, suddenly become do-able on Friday. Hanging those pictures that you never seemed to have time to go before; baking that special food your mother-in-law taught you how to make.
For many women here, Friday is catch-up time for all the things that got pushed aside or, if you are lucky and do enough on Thursday, Friday is a day to escape and visit places and people who aren’t working on this first day of our wonderful weekend here in Israel.
Then, no matter how long the day is, too soon comes that moment when whatever you didn’t get a chance to do, no longer matters. You wave your hands over the Shabbat candles you have just lit. You close your eyes, even cover them so that you can’t peek. And then, you whisper the words that bring peace to your home, light to your heart. Blessed are You, Our God, King of the World [Universe], Who blessed us with the commandment to light the candles of Shabbat…
For many of us, it is a time to add those personal prayers you’ll never find in a prayer book. Please God, send refuah shlayma (complete healing) to my father, Moshe ben Malka; and my mother, please send her strength and watch over Sarah bat Mina Leah. Please got watch over my daughter, her husband and their beautiful boys. Please watch over my eldest son, his wonderful wife and their precious daughter. Please watch over my middle son, send his wife strength and bless their precious baby son. Please watch over my youngest son, my soldier. Guard him, keep him safe. Please, please God, watch over my Davidi. Please watch over my youngest daughter – and wish her a happy birthday (English…Hebrew will come soon) and help her on the path to becoming the amazing woman I know she will be some day. Please watch over my husband, father to our children, my friend and companion, and give us many many years to share together, watch our family grown. Please protect Israel, our soldiers, our children. Our land.
So many prayers but really, God knows them all. We say them every week, think them every moment.
We open our eyes and, really, tension is gone. Whatever deadlines we have next week, are years away. Our worries are put aside. Money doesn’t exist for the next 25 hours. The computer, the telephone, meetings with clients, that parent-teacher conference where the teacher is going to give you a hard time for your child always coming late…all this is gone in seconds. The world is gone. A massive umbrella has descended over our land and nothing except what is directly under the umbrella counts.
What you have is a home that smells amazing; the soft flickering light of candles calling out their welcome. Dinner is a family affair, even for families where mid-week dining is rushed and often solo. Even for those who stay up late every night, Friday night is when our bodies tell us to stop, shut down, sleep.
The sleep of Shabbat is like no other. It refills the body, the soul, the mind. Shabbat morning is a time of promise – hours and hours span out in front of you when you know that no one will call you, no one will ask anything of you. The food is already ready, at most you only need to warm it.
Shabbat lunch is delicious and already you feel the need to sleep again. You rest, you play with your children and/or grandchildren. It’s the time you notice how much they have grown; it’s the time they talk to you…and you can listen because you aren’t being pulled in a million directions.
By late afternoon, once in a while a thought of work slips in and you push it away. You will not steal these hours from me, you tell your mind; and your heart sings. If only, Shabbat would never end!
My youngest son goes back to the army early next week. He’s had a 6 week break as part of the revised Hesder program and now returns for his final year in the army. This is his last Shabbat at home before he goes back. Already, the army has give him back his military ID that they took from him several weeks ago. Already, he is officially a soldier, on call.
Next week, he goes to one of Israel’s borders to guard. Next week, the worry begins again. For Shabbat, the soup is gently boiling, the chicken and vegetables already cooked and in the refrigerator. Rice is done; challah is rising beside me on the table. I made those cinnamon rolls that everyone likes, and they are behind me cooling on the coffee table. The sheets have been changed, the candles already filled with oil to light.
Whatever awaits Israel in the coming week is irrelevant right now, not worth our time to worry. Shabbat is coming. Soon, very soon. That’s really all that matters. Shabbat is coming.