Minnesota Mamaleh: Summer Days, Summer Nights

Candle lighting with my girls

You and me, we’ve talked about this before. You know the rub. There are different ways to do…pretty much everything. Childhood. Mommyhood. Friendships. Relationships. Healthiness. Religiosity. Spirituality. Culture. Love. There’s a million-and-one variations. And you know what? They’re all right. For someone.
While the ins-and-outs of Judaism vary, Noshin’ columnist Sara Rice said it best: Our bread and butter? That’s Shabbat.
Nothing screams “Jewish-y,” or spirituality for that matter, more to me than the smell of freshly baked challah, the girls’ sweet voices saying the blessings over the candles, wine and bread and Brody’s chubby little fingers holding tightly (oh-so-very-tightly) onto his grape juice.
The family. The fun. The together-ness. The group-sigh-and-deep-exhale in celebration of the weekend being here. Finally. The candlelight, the wine, the flowers, the dialogue, the prayers, the delicious food. Shabbat.
Shabbat comes around every single week (yes all year long), so it should feel just-right. Given that, I’ve researched, read, attempted, tried again. All to create that “Shabbat-y” feeling for my family. Different. Separate. Special.
One person’s Shabbat-iness happens between the walls of a synagogue. And another’s between the walls of their own living room. (And perhaps the kitchen.) One person’s large gathering, is another’s dinner-for-two. One person’s prayer well into the night, is another’s just-the-basics. One person’s fancy-shmancys, is another’s comfy-cozies. In my mind, there’s not a right way. Just a right feeling.

I have absolutely no shame in admitting that Jason can out-challah braid me. Not a one.

Technically speaking, on Shabbat everything should be prepared in advance so the whole evening can be dedicated to family, spirituality and yummy food. No work. No driving. No other events or activities. No distractions. How beautiful is that?
I love the notion, the sentiment and the pure bliss of it. But in reality, sometimes it’s hard to adhere to start times, end times, yays and nays. If it’s not what resonates, it starts to feel…un-Shabbat-y. There’s a technical term for you!
Before Jason and I had children, actually, before we were even married, one of our favorite rabbis asked us how we plan on remembering and observing Shabbat with our (then future, hypothetical) children.
Are you thinking that that was just a little over the top? Not so much, actually. You’d be surprised how many times we’ve chosen between doing Shabbat and an evening out with close friends, a school event or a birthday party. We’ve always been able to softly land right back onto that conversation.
Why? Because after he posed the question and let it marinade for a little bit, he weighed in. The rabbi’s son, and football star, played in Friday night games right after candles were lit and prayers were said. He never had to choose between either of his sparks– Judaism and football. Does this surprise you?
Our rabbi taught us that the Shabbat feeling is peaceful and light. Content and just-right. So if you find spirituality by observing every rule and every ritual, then that feels beautiful. To you. And if you don’t? Well then all of that observing and ritual-ing will feel like a burden. Or a restriction. Something to avoid, rather than to envelop within your heart, and take on as your own. I’ve always remembered that.

Shabbat-y, indeed.

About ten years and three kids later, I often get my inspiration from play date chit-chats. I’ve moved from the rabbi’s office to a local ice cream shop. I say potato, you say po-tah-to?
This week, my moment-of-clarity happened while my children were becoming increasingly chocolate ice cream smeared, so the convo was short but powerful. I’ll just go ahead and let that image percolate in your mind a ‘lil bit…Don’t mention it. And yes, I gave my children chocolate ice cream in the middle of the day. With toppings. Don’t judge.
Besides chocolate ice cream (with toppings!), my girlfriend and I discussed how we felt working versus how we feel being at home with our children. Not comparing or weighing options, but reflecting on when something doesn’t feel right, it becomes well, hard. And stressful. And a have-to-do instead of a want-to-do. I took it as the same lesson learned as the rabbi’s. Not too shabby for two moms over ice cream.
And that brings us right back to Shabbat. And most importantly, creating Shabbat-iness. We’re amidst glorious, sun-shiny, it’s-light-out-so-Bedtime? Who needs bedtime? Summertime. So many of our Shabbats happen outside. Sometimes we eat a gourmet meal ala Jason. Sometimes we grill. And other times? We have a picnic. Or pizza. That part doesn’t really doesn’t matter. What matters is the connections made, the memories created and the feelings felt.
I am seriously awe-struck by the thought of saying the same words as so many people in so many places. Here, there and everywhere, right? My heart is equally warmed by the thought of baking challah with my children at the same time as other Mamas and their babies. Different places, different paths but same warm moments, warm hearts. Sometimes even using the same recipe! Both equally give me that warm-and-fuzzy Shabbat-y feeling. Every. Single. Week.

A picnic blanket, pizza,the kiddy pool and being together actually *does* say Shabbat to me!

Some families add a set-aside dialogue time during Shabbat. While we haven’t broached Torah-topics, we have tried to incorporate a short discussion about something that might have come up for us that week. Kindness. Trying hard. Listeningtoyourmother! Just as a few ahem- examples.
The Shabbat-iest of Shabbat-iest for me is the moment that I spend whispering something kind, wonderful, appreciative to each of my children. It’s not the traditional Hebrew. And it’s not the same words that you might say to your children. But it’s ours. And it’s beautiful. And for us, that feeling can be created just as easily at a fancy table or at a picnic blanket.
There are just so many amazing ways to carve out that lovely separateness. So I leave you with a Shabbat Shalom! And the hope that your evening is filled with something…Beautiful. Wine? Good friends? Sweet words for your children? Laughter? Prayer? Pizza? Playing? Whatever it is, however it looks, I hope it’s exactly where you and your family want to be. Because that’s the good stuff right there. The good stuff, indeed.