Today was the day leading up to Shabbat. We started with a talk by Rav Gav, who is a hip rabbi. Think Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin but on speed! He spoke to us about the specialness of Shabbat, how the week of crazy business culminates in a heavenly, peaceful, invigorating 25 hours of bliss. Our Shabbat was less than peaceful because we were rushing to pack it all in.
Friday morning, we went to the Shuk. What an amazing place to be before Shabbat. It was bustling with people buying challah and pastries, hummus and tahini, teas, nuts, and a million other treats and goods. It was an ordered balagan.
We then went back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat. Once all prettied up, we walked back to the Kotel and did a Kabbalah Shabbat. It was beautiful — rooftop pictures overlooking the Kotel and all. Then we had a nice Shabbat dinner, all 200 of us. We sang songs and ate well. Then we had to walk back to the hotel. Remember, Shabbat means no transport. We walked so much. 25000 steps!!! Some of us decided to unplug. No internet. No phone. What a change. Sort of felt liberating.
Saturday morning, we had a lecture on parenting, and then we walked 45 minutes to a host family’s house for lunch. It was a very interesting experience, but what touched me the most was the respect and warmth the kids had for their parents and vice versa. They reflected on what they were appreciative for, and there was lots of singing. Food, of course, was abundant and yummy — best kugel ever. We had to leave lunch early because we had to trek 55 minutes back to the hotel only to trek 45 minutes to the Western Wall again for Havdalah ceremony. It was pretty magical. There is a beauty to Shabbat. A chance to disconnect, to reflect, and appreciate the week that has passed and the week to come. When Shabbat was over, everyone wished each other Shavua Tov, a good week. We ended our night on Ben Yehuda street, which suddenly was bustling only minutes after Shabbat ended.
There is so much life here in Israel. A country that cherishes life. The people have fought so hard for this land. They protect her and appreciate her, and they have a joie de vivre because they, unfortunately, know that life can be taken away so quickly. We all need to learn from the Shabbat experience. In such a fast-paced world, we would all greatly benefit from breaking away and disconnecting. We often walk through life so unconscious, wrapped up in our routine, that we forget to stop and look up. Be grateful for what you have. Be thankful that as Jewish people, our ancestors sacrificed for us to have a land where we are always welcome. Be grateful that Israelis risk their lives to protect our homeland. Be appreciative of your spouse and children. We are so fortunate.
Dr. Leslie Solomon
Montreal, QC, Canada