October 27 14

The Shabbat Project could not have come at a better time.

Not too long ago, I talked at length to a friend about the concept of Shabbat — this from-Friday-night-to-Saturday-night mandatory break. Because I am somewhat of a grammar girl, I likened it to the em-dash, describing this as a 25-hour long pause between the busy of the week before and the busy of the week to come.

Many people, when you describe what Shabbat is, gasp in slight shock. “You don’t use any electronics at all? You don’t check your email? You don’t watch tv?”

This friend, when I described it, gasped in {was it jealousy a little bit?} delight. “That’s the greatest thing I have ever heard.”

And I realized that she was right.

A few years ago, when our family decided to stop participating in the minutiae of Shabbat observance, instead of gaining this extra day to get stuff done and have quality family time — like we thought it would — in some ways it just became another day where THE BUSY overtook our lives.

The reason I say minutiae is because Shabbat was always and has always been important to us. Friday night family meals, lighting candles, synagogue on Saturday, baking challah with my girls are things we continued to make a priority during those 25 hours each week — but this was all mixed with our phones and cars and video games and work.

We mixed special with ordinary.

And truthfully, we missed the special. We missed the real break.

Something interesting happens when your kids have to play an actual board game instead of something that requires button smashing. Something interesting happens when you sit down on the couch with a blanket, a book, and some tea and you can’t use your remote to catch up on the oft-disappointing-these-days-but-you-can’t-stop Grey’s Anatomy. Something interesting happens when you sit at a lunch table with friends and just talk, since you can’t use your phones, you can’t instagram, you can’t just take a quick work call, you can’t just watch that cute panda video everyone’s sharing on Facebook.

Something special.

Something necessary. Something important.


When I first heard about The Shabbat Project, it was when a friend shared this video on Facebook.

I watched it once.

And then I watched it again.

And I couldn’t stop the chills.

It was the special I was missing. I wanted to be a part of this, I needed to be a part of it.

I asked questions, I sent emails, I begged to volunteer. I found myself lucky enough to be the photography coordinator for two events for the Shabbat Project Toronto. I coordinated the volunteer photographers at a Thursday night 2,500 women across Toronto community challah bake — all kinds of women all baking challah together. And I coordinated the volunteer photographers at a beautiful Havdallah ceremony at the end of Shabbat, with singing, dancing, and, well, Gad Elbaz.


And in between those two busy and full-of-lovely-energy events, I stopped, I rested, I put the camera down, and I kept Shabbat.

It wasn’t the first time I kept Shabbat of course — there are hundreds of those. And it certainly won’t be the last.

But it’s the first one that got under my skin, that will stay with me, that really reminded me of what I love about that lovely little Jewish em-dash.

  1. Lovely!

    I was just talking to my SIL about Shabbat and how it really is a great thing to unplug and spend time with family and slow down for a bit. When we went camping, I was like “this is kind of like shabbat and I’m really looking forward to no TV, no phones (kind of) and just spending time with friends!”


    Comment by Kristabella on October 27, 2014
  2. it takes great courage to return to a life lost. It takes great courage to share that decision
    It takes great courage to try it again
    It takes ever more courage to admit maybe a mistake was made and a return is best for you and those you love. Continue to be of courage. It’s helps encourage those who want to hear of such things. I suspect many more than you can imagine


    Comment by Jerome Stanleigh on October 29, 2014

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