Making Room for Shabbat

What do you value about being Jewish? The answer to that question may not be obvious. You care about Judaism, else you wouldn’t be at CBJ.

When my husband and I were graduate students at MIT, we often got together with friends to play complex board games. I became pregnant in my last year of graduate school, and others in our group were also thinking in that direction. I clearly remember musing to our friend Matthew around that time, “What will we do if our kids don’t like board games?” Matthew responded, “Don’t try to convince them. Just play in front of them. When they see you like doing it, they will want to do it, too.”

Matthew was right – about board games, and about every value we transmit to our children. Our children know what we really care about, and it is not always what we say we do.

What do you value about being Jewish? The answer to that question may not be obvious. You care about Judaism, else you wouldn’t be at CBJ. But why? And how do your children see you living it? It’s not easy to fit Judaism into the pace of Silicon Valley.

Shabbat can be part of the answer. Ahad Ha’Am, one of the great writers of the early Zionist movement, famously said, “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Shabbat can be a time out of time. Put the world on freeze. Stop trying to do, to make, to win, to accomplish, and just enjoy being. When we return to our regular lives after Shabbat is over, the pace has not changed but it feels less frantic. That day – or, if 25 hours is too much, whatever part of the day you set aside as Shabbat – infuses the rest of the week.

Like exercise, and diet, and all the things we know we should do for our own good, Shabbat is not easy. For us adults, it is hard to hold that to-do list at bay. And for most kids, “just being” is not an option.

Can we at CBJ help make it happen? What if we had classes on Shabbat mornings that excited a range of child interests? Imagine a class in Jewish Lego, a debate club, a drama club. With the kids happily engaged, could parents allow themselves to yield to the relaxation of Shabbat?

If you’d like to see CBJ become a Shabbat home for more families, let me know. I’m looking for ideas, for volunteers, and for energy to make it happen next fall. Many years ago, one my teachers, a professor of Chemistry who was also a deeply religious Jew, said to me: “People are governed by inertia. It is hard to start work, and it is hard to stop.” Like exercise and meditating, making ourselves do Shabbat can be hard. But if we do it together, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be worth it.