How Shabbat Brings Us Back to Earth

“Shabbos is practice for the world-to-come.  Weekly practice in living in a world that doesn’t need fixing.”

“On Shabbos you don’t have to believe in holiness because you can see it.”

“More than the Jewish people have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jewish people”



“No one is going to be there tonight…” I told Yitzi as we trudged through snow and wind to reach our final destination.  The Boston streets were deserted. Commonwealth Avenue was a virtual ghost town.  It was Friday night, and despite pleas from parents and friends that we stay inside, Yitzi and I were heading to Chabad for Shabbat dinner in the midst of what Bostonians often call a “nor’easter (a massive snowstorm enveloping the city).

When we finally reached Chabad’s corner of Comm Ave, we were sure that when we walked through the door we would find no other guests. We were wrong. Contrary to our prediction, the house was more full than we had ever seen it.  The tables could not handle the amount of people.  There was talk of wine and challah shortages. Students were on the floors, in the foyer…everyone had come to Chabad.

So why, on the day when it is the most challenging to reach Shabbat services and dinner, do more people come than when walking to Chabad takes little effort? Is it that significant events such as snowstorms remind us that there is something bigger than ourselves out there? Do we crave the one thing that seems immortal in our minds,a Jewish tradition that has lasted for generations? Or do blizzards and city wide tragedies help us to realize that our everyday challenges are nothing compared to the importance of connecting with other human beings?

All of Friday, April 19,2013, the city of Boston was on lockdown.  Residents were urged to remain indoors as a massive manhunt was underway for a terrorist that had set off bombs at Marathon Monday and hijacked a car after killing a policeman.  With the terrorist still at large, the ban was lifted.  My assumption was that upon my arrival at Chabad, I would be the only guest.  There was a dangerous man on the loose. Who in their right mind would leave the safety of their own home for Shabbat?

I was wrong. When I arrived at Chabad, I encountered the same scene I had witnessed during the snowstorm. Tables were overflowing with people, students were on the floors, in the foyer….everyone had come to Chabad.  Candles were lit, wine was served, pieces of Challah were broken, and I realized that without this night, the snow storms and the lockdowns and the shootings and the craziness would dwell in our minds without end and without purpose. Shabbat is there to remind us that there are focuses in life more important than who’s running from police and who’s stuck inside. It reminds us that in the end, the people around you are the things that matter and that Challah, kugel, and a little wine can fix just about anything.


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