Picking up groceries from the market is one of my favorite things about living in Tel Aviv. While a cup of noodles may be absurdly priced, two kilos of apples is only a couple of bucks. For 12 dollars I get enough fruits and veggies for all of Shabbat weekend and then some. Plenty of potatoes for dinner and an enormous bag of Jaffa oranges to enjoy. As I was getting checked out by the Russian guy across the counter this past Friday, I started thinking about what I needed to be working on that Shabbat. Which papers needed priority, how an internship application needed revising, and what was needed for my thesis. As I payed and got my change the grocer told me, “Shabbat Shalom”. A standard phrase for Shabbat and one that I hear every week. It struck me however, this seems to be happening more and more often, as a phrase that needs more circulation.
Wednesday was the Florida school shooting, today has been a little stressful since a friend of mine has been too near some protests in the West Bank for my comfort, and immigration will begin soon for the many illegal immigrants in the city if no stay is given to the first 200 Eritreans getting ready to be deported. Suffice to say sometimes the world seems a little more immediately chaotic. It’s easy to get lost in the craziness. But that Shabbat shalom can bring things back in to focus. I felt the same after the move of the US consulate and there was a lot of nervousness before that Shabbat as well.
In the store the morning after that announcement that the consulate would move, there was palpable tension. That morning the shabbat shalom that I exchanged with that cashier also seemed like more than a formality. It was more, and it is more. Shalom in hebrew is a greeting: hello. It also means peace. Peaceful Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom. And in a place that’s rife with conflict and where everyone has stories of violence or has lived under the threat of war and worse, that phrase resonates. Every Friday on the eve of shabbat in fact. And this phrase represents more than just a wish, it represents an entire mentality. A commitment to stepping away from work and from absurdity and enjoy life. Enjoy family, friends, yourself without the burden of work for one day out of the week. From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, take yourself away from work. To truly rest. Who knows when it might be taken from you, or you from it. Life is not a guarantee and it’s important to remember that the most important things in life deserve and demand our attention and care just as much as survival. You cannot live on store bought bread alone, take the time to make bread with your kids or your grandkids as my grandfather did with me and my siblings. We will remember those doughy hands and flurries of flour more than most of the other events in our lives. I couldn’t tell you a single brand of bread that my family has ever bought because it doesn’t matter.
Life is a struggle, but the happiest and most complete people understand that you can’t always be fighting. You have to lay down your burdens to be at your best and to live while you’re trying to survive. That’s not to say that you drop everything and neglect your duties, it’s just that those burdens and those problems will still be waiting for you Sunday morning and you’ll be just fine finishing it then.
In our society, we’re so perpetually inundated with the idea that problems need to be fixed immediately and without hesitation, and that a failure to resolve means that there must be fault with the fixer or not enough effort is being put into the resolution. But sometimes, things just require patience, and an extra day of ramming your head against a wall won’t matter. Eating, Sleeping, Working. That doesn’t sound like a life worth living. In between each of those necessities is the need to keep meaning and vitality in your life. Rarely does something need to be so immediately settled that it requires us to forgo time with our innermost group of loved ones, time to understand the beauty of life at a reasonable pace, or just to give ourselves time to rest. We all need rest, for our sanity, for our well being, and for the well being of the world. So Shabbat Shalom to the world, and a peaceful shabbat for all people. We could all use it.