Just give it a rest…a Shabbat Project tale

October 22, 2018 by Rabbi Eli Schlanger
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I have childhood memories of my family road trips from New York to Toronto— a 10-hour drive, including stops—to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins…writes Rabbi Eli Schlanger.

Rabbi Eli Schlanger

We would squeeze into a Ford Mercury station wagon, all 9 of us in the back seats and our parents up front. My mother would pack enough food to feed an army, and my father would put on his holiday casquette. Of course, there was enough entertainment for us on these rides between our collection of Jewish music cassettes, and the magnitude of my siblings’ personalities. The seating in this car was unusual. The front seats were a three-seater bench, the width of the car could hold four people in the middle row, and the three that could fit in the back row would be faced backwards. We would all sing together until we heard each cassette three times, and then it would start: the composing of our family trip songs. I think I’ll spare the embarrassment of my family and avoid sharing the content of those songs, but even after 30 years, every word of those melodies still ring in my head with warmth.

When my parents needed some peace and quiet, they would stop the car and tell us to run in an open field, to breathe in some fresh air. My father would talk about the spiritual meaning of creation and marvel at G-d’s creativity in designing such an exquisite world. My mother would chime in and share her memories of her childhood growing up in sunny Manchester.

When recalling these experiences, I’m hit with deep feelings of fondness and nostalgia. As a family, we have formulated a bond. No matter how different we are today, the memories we share keep us from ever being torn apart.

Picture for a moment today’s family excursion— from Sydney to Melbourne, or even Bondi Beach to North Bondi: Dad is in his own world on his mobile, fighting to secure their place in today’s financial manic world. Mum is multitasking, distractedly trying to shush the kids so Dad doesn’t lose it while directing traffic from the passenger seat. The teenaged daughter is scrolling through Instagram, liking her acquaintances’ most recent posts. The two-year-old boy, chewing on his favourite dummy, is wondering whether Mum will notice if he downloads a $20.99 game from the App store onto his 10.5” iPad Pro.

Truth be told, we are not evil. We do want to connect and bond with our loved ones, but unfortunately, this is becoming progressively harder to achieve. Technology has undeniably improved our lives. It enables us to succeed in all areas, whether it’s within the family, health, or monetary matters. It has even given men the ability to multitask. However, this should be reserved for only 6 days of the week. The 7thmust be kept sacred.

Many of my friends, even my non-Jewish friends, are intrigued by the gift G-d has given to us: Shabbat. But unfortunately, it’s like a spoiled child that has so many toys, he or she can’t appreciate the proper value in each one. We have been gifted with 613 ‘toys’. These are gifts from G-d to enhance our connection to him, and consequentially, our family and friends. Shabbat is one of those gifts; It is holy and must be valued.

When a child turns 18, their parents are expected to buy them a valuable present, (a watch, for example), and say two things:

  1. Remember this moment. Cherish this gift as it serves as a tribute to the parents who love you, and a reminder of the family you come from.
  2. Don’t break it.

The same is for the gift of Shabbat. Hashem gave us the precious gift and told us two things:

  1. “Zachor”: remember it to be holy. In these 25 hours, the world is being run from a level of spirituality that sources the blessings for success for the upcoming week
  2. “Shamor”: don’t break it. All the so-called ‘restrictions’ we are given that we like to complain about, such as ‘don’t watch Tv’, ‘don’t drive’, ‘don’t use a pen’, etc., is G-d’s way of saying ‘give it a rest’. Relax, sit in Shul and talk to G-d; ask for whatever you want from the Master of the universe. Sit with your loved ones at a three-course meal. Drink, eat, sing and relax.

As we are swiftly approaching the global initiative “The Shabbat Project”, we have a unique opportunity to join Jews worldwide and introduce Shabbat into our lives, to have a taste genuine freedom and liberty from obsession; to focus on our beloved creator, Hashem, and the people we love.

Our community, too, will be celebrating the Shabbat Project with a Challah bake for girls and women on Thursday, 25thof October, and a beautiful community Shabbat dinner on the 26th. Please see The Shabbat project Sydney Facebook page for more details. We look forward to celebrating Shabbat with all of you.

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