In Praise of Holiday Time

Since my planner was empty, I decided to take the evening off from commitments and just watch TV and get some chores done around the apartment. Then, I remembered what I wanted to write about.

Growing up, Shabbat and holiday time was a time to unplug. No computer, no phone, no music…just the noises of people, and silence. And no car either, so your feet were the way to go. I think it started around college, when I was far from home and the work piled on. And that began my less-religious streak.

These days, I try to spend as much time as I can on Shabbat and holidays being observant, but I’ve either got some sort of commitment, have work to do, or just get too bored and realize that I’m an adult and I can do what I want.

But yesterday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, changed that…a little.

A parent of one of my students (at the elementary school, not from college) invited me over for lunch. I knew they were a religious family, but they lived kind of far away to walk so I drove and parked a few blocks away from their beautiful house. I waited for about ten minutes, thinking they might’ve forgotten, or got held up at shul, when I saw a little salmon-colored dot run down the street towards me. That dot became little Michael, who wrapped me in a big hug, and his mother, Sarah, wasn’t far behind, with his little sister, and another couple and their two kids (again, all names changed for privacy). We went inside, made kiddush, and enjoyed a lovely homemade lunch, courtesy of Sarah. The golden ratio of 5 adults and 4 kids (well, more adults than kids is a golden ratio any way you slice it), we enjoyed our food in leisure. No one was checking their email, and only once did a phone ring (it was the house phone, and Sarah ignored it). I ate my fill of challah and honey, salad with pomegranate seeds, fish, stuffed chicken, corn muffins, mashed potatoes, spinach, and cherry pie for dessert, all while enjoying conversations about the plight of Roma in Central Europe, where to find the best kosher food in town, remembering our favorite food products from when we were kids that no longer existed, using FaceTime to keep up with family, and more. After saying Birkat Hamazon, there was no rush to clean up; people just brought in plates, forks, and food items leisurely, and we continued to schmooze in and around the kitchen. I updated Sarah on what we were covering in school, and chatted with the other couple about theater and Jewish customs, and our upbringings, and such. I was having such a casual and happy time that I was honestly shocked when I looked over at the oven clock and it was 5:00 PM, for a lunch that began at 2:00 PM.

Upon walking back to my car, getting in, and driving home, I was simultaneously on a holiday high and kind of sad to be returning from the religious world to the “real world.” When I got home, I realized that I had a meeting I wanted to go to at 5:30, but as I watched the clock tick by, I was like…nah, not a chance. I’m staying in bed and watching the sun set, and doing nothing else (well, at least until dance class at 9:30).

For all those times I hated Shabbat and holidays from preventing me from doing what I wanted as a kid, I started to really miss those days. I don’t know what my future will bring, but this year I really do want to at least try to get back to the comforting way things were back then. I was so busy the rest of the holiday with meetings, school, work commitments, that I barely got any Rosh Hashanah this year. This year, if and when I can, I will do my best to at least get a few solid hours of Shabbat/holiday time each time it comes up. Not necessarily being in shul all the time, but trying to eat meals in the sukkah, going to a Simchat Torah event, and spending at least a little of my Saturdays either meditating, or reading for fun, or just doing nothing but existing, completely disconnected from anything with an on/off button and not thinking about anything that might take up residence in my planner.

Long live happy days of religious bliss, no commitments, and nothing but time on my hands.

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15 thoughts on “In Praise of Holiday Time

  1. That was beautiful! I may not be Jewish, but in Alabama where I lived for a time, our churches were compelling us to learn Jewish custom and tradition.
    But even before that, in the “Bible belt” areas, family and custom was integral. Sundays, we didn’t work, honoring it as God’s day. We almost always went to church and often had church “pot Lucks” or picnic meals, spending all afternoon with family and friends.
    The adults would sit on the porch with lemonade or sweet tea watching the children playing in the yard and everyone reminiscing of days gone by and past family members with stories and antics of their younger days. No TV or radio but then most didn’t have TV in those days and computers were unheard of. It was a calmer time, for certain.
    Your story took me with you and I could feel the warmth and friendship and sadness permeate my bones. Thank you.

  2. Wonderful post! Isn’t it interesting how the bridge connects childhood and adulthood? The bridge is typically something very important, like Shabbat. It feels so good to find that all over again, yet as an adult it is far better and more meaningful.

  3. That was so interesting and heartwarming to read. I, a Christian, grew up with a young Jewish girl. The only fight we ever had was about the existence of Santa Claus! I remember learning about their different traditions and her mine. Our Sabbath was Sunday and hers was Saturday so we hardly ever saw each other on the weekends. As I grew up I became interested in the different religions and their traditions. Thank you for sharing this piece of your life.

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