Saturday, August 2, 2008

Struggling with Shabbos, An Ongoing Effort

After a commute of more than two hours yesterday, I was ready to throw in the towel and not go to shul at all. Add to that that I had three options -- Chabad on the roof in Wicker Park, a cook-out at the Conservative shul (CS) followed by services indoors, and standard service at the Orthodox shul (OS) -- I was hesistant to do anything. But I changed, grabbed my bus pass and keys and headed out the door to the cookout, with the initial intention to go there first and then hop over to the Orthodox shul for 7:30 services. But after I got off the bus in front of the CS, I realized that I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, sans a cardigan, and thus I changed my plans to just stay at the CS.

I grabbed a hamburger patty, some fruit, a brownie, and plopped down with friends, noshed, bensched and then went inside for services, which were very small. The chazzan provided the small crowd with long, drawn-out melodies that I was unfamiliar with, and a fellow next to me informed me that he was practicing for High Holidays most likely. It's funny, because I found myself having a harder time following the service through the Conservite siddur than I do with the Artscroll siddur at OS. How's that possible, I wonder? Maybe it's the layout, or that I've spent more time with the Orthodox siddur, or that the transliteration (while sometime frustrating) provides more cues and information for the reader. Like the couple steps forward and couple steps back routine -- the Artscroll siddur spells it out for you, which I appreciate. Yes, the speed of an Orthodox service is lightning fast compared to that at a Reform or Conservative shul, but I've almost grown accostmed to it. After services, I walked home, feeling in-the-spirit of being Shomer Shabbos, reading the World Jewish Digest as I trekked the quick mile home.

I managed to be unplugged today until a little after 11 a.m., when my lack of will power kicked in and had me turning my BlackBerry on. Of course, there was nothing life-altering in my inbox -- there never is -- and the imminent guilt set in. As I got ready, I was racking my brain trying to remember this little passage I read in the siddur last night, that had struck me as both profound and insightful. I tried to apply my sometimes-visual memory, but all I could see was the page, not the words. I knew that it was somethig from the Mishnah, but I couldn't place it. It was only when I was riding the bus to get some lunch and I was considering the whole no-spending-money bit for Shabbos that I remembered what the passage that struck me was about. I can't remember if this is accurate, but this is about the right gist of what it was saying:
When the world was created, God made everything a little bit incomplete. Rather than making bread grow out of the earth, God made wheat grow so that we might bake it into bread. Rather than making the earth of bricks, God made it of clay so that we might bake the clay into bricks. Why? So that we might become partners in completing the work of creation.
Now, of course this is one of those "duh" things that is generally obvious, but reading it in this fashion, the way it is explained, is truly enlightening, I think. You never really think about WHY it is that bread doesn't grow out of the ground, right? The thought that we have to take part in using the materials G-d has provided in order to create the bread never really crosses our minds.

We spend all week doing these things -- creating, building, doing our part in the work of creation -- and on Shabbos we're supposed to rest, to do that which we do not do all week. And every day I seem to find more reason to be Shomer Shabbos, and yet, here I am, typing away on my laptop, drinking the coffee that I purchased, not being even remotely observant of the Sabbath. It's a beautiful day, even. I could have taken a book outside near the beach and sat under a tree and read. But that attachment to technology just won over, again, as it seems to do every week. It's part of this idea that I need to be busy, that I need to be connected to everything, just in case. I mean, if I lived in a community where everyone around me was studying and davening and noshing pre-cooked food, I think that I would be less inclined to feel the necessity of being attached. But, of course, that's no excuse.

Like everything in my life, I say that once I go away to school it will change. Part of me is quite confident in this idea, simply because a city environment versus an academic/college environment are very different.

Anyhow. I find it peculiar that I have more reasons to do something than I do not to. I suppose it's like those who smoke despite knowing the health risks, or those who go scuba diving with sharks knowing full well that they're in danger. It's all about choice -- that darned free will we've been imbued with.

Maybe, when I get to school, I'll find a coffee shop open on Saturdays and set up one of those pay-in-advance things so that I can have my coffee and sit at a coffee shop without breaking the Sabbath. People do that, right? It's a thing to do.