I huffed in my hot car, shelpping to Santa Monica, halted in Friday afternoon LA traffic, but looking forward to breathing the clean beach air, free from the work week’s nuisances. After my Shabbat bereft tenure in San Francisco, getting myself to my host’s house is a small price to pay for inclusion in the special occasion. I live alone, and all too often find myself, exhausted, sorting the junk from my mail, mentally measuring my refrigerator contents against the proper ingredients for a satisfying dinner, while my cat meows hungrily against my legs. Friday night is supposed to feel like precious deliverance, but I often find myself lonesome and hungry, and despite the sunshine, a little cold inside. I agree that Friday night’s receding sun should symbolize a celebration of sorts, but with whom can I share company and a moment of reflection? The Jews!
Birthright Israel NEXT Los Angeles encouraged Birthright alums across LA to host Shabbat in their homes through the NEXT Shabbat program on one weekend in April. Hundreds participated in Shabbat festivities in various homes across the Southland, from Seal Beach to The Valley. Between Friday and Saturday evening I attended three such events, including a Friday night dinner, Saturday afternoon Seudah Shlishit (the traditional third meal of the Sabbath), and a Havdalah dinner, which brought it all to a lovely close. Extinguishing in wine the burning ends of the intricately braided candle, marking our separation from Shabbat, meant we found ourselves in the darkness of my friend’s apartment. I found this apropos, because, really, we begin in darkness. So, Havdalah signifies not just resuming our ordinary work (walking the dog, reading emails), but actually, a rejuvenation and metaphysical rebirth. Traversing the quiet terrain of the Sabbath, moving from the fall of darkness to the fall of darkness, is, like all earthly cycles, is a completion. With completion comes a fundamental satisfaction and sense of peace.
If Shabbat is about a state of mind, a time to think and exist, then my NEXT Shabbat experience truly succeeded in rewarding me, through friends and an abundance of delicious foods, for all my diligence and endeavors during the week.