"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sabbath in my New Apartment (Warning: LONG Post, 18 Paragraphs)

Sabbath/Shabbos/Shabbat: No matter what you call it, the day is special.  I start looking forward to it, believe it or not, the day after: Sunday, the first day of the week.  I suppose it helps that there are special psalms to say at the end of morning prayers each day that tell you how far out you are ("Today is the first day out from Shabbat," "Today is the second day out from Shabbat," etc.) but really it's just such a special day--a 25-hour holiday each week--how could I not?!

To make the Sabbath special, I do massive prep work.  On Friday morning, or Thursday afternoon if I have other responsibilities Friday morning, I go shopping.  I buy whatever few things I need for the house (this week it's milk and laundry detergent), and fresh vegetables for Friday night (usually brussel sprouts, my favorite).  In two weeks, I will also have to buy more chicken (I buy two-pound leg quarter packages, separate them into four pieces, then freeze them, and defrost and cook one each week) and challah rolls (I need two for ritual purposes, but I only defrost and eat one per week; a package therefore lasts me four weeks).

That same day--Thursday afternoon or Friday morning--I clean the house top to bottom.  I wipe down everything in the bathroom: sink, toilet, tub, mirrors; and everything in the kitchen: sink, counter, stove; put away any loose items, and clean the dining table and chairs.  This week I am also going to vacuum.  I have a hardwood floor, and I haven't vacuumed yet, but this will be my third Sabbath in this apartment, and it's time.  I had planned to mop, but I have more of a "vacuum mess" than a "mop mess" and I suspect that vacuuming is simpler anyway.

After I shop and clean, I have a break until 2:00 pm on Friday.  At that point I say my afternoon prayers--my last ordinary weekday prayers for the week--and lay out my dress clothes.  This Friday night I am wearing a long black velour skirt, black tights, and my pink jacket-and-lacy-blouse combo, with turquoise jewelry (pendant from Afghanistan; ring from Southwestern US; both gifts from my father from Army trips) and my "birds in color" Yair Emanuel hat-size kippah.

On Saturday, I am wearing the same skirt and tights, with a pinkish-purple top with three-dimensional roses near the collar, a magnetic wraparound bracelet featuring purple beads overlaid with metal roses, and my pearlescent ring with a crystal-like bead at the center (very cheap, probably plastic, from Old Navy).  Now that I am going to "real synagogue" Friday night and Saturday morning, I like to wear the same skirt both times so I only use one skirt a week (after all, I only have three winter dress skirts); with a different shirt each time, however, I manage to get very different  looks.

After I lay out my clothes on Friday, I take a nice, long, hot shower.  During the week I am all about efficiency; my pre-Sabbath shower, however, is designed to be luxurious.  When I am done in the shower, I take out a piece of chicken, and put it on a cutting board (I can't put food directly on the counter because there is only one counter, so I can't separate meat and dairy) to defrost.  Then I am free till 4:00 pm.  Usually during this time I call home.  I call home most evenings during the week, too; however, I am especially conscious to make a pre-Sabbath phone call, especially to talk to my mother.

At 4:00 pm, I spring into action again.  I peal the foil off the chicken and lay it on a fresh piece of foil, and I sprinkle on ginger, paprika, dill weed, and curry powder (though not too much of anything, especially the curry powder; I don't like very spicy chicken).  This is the way my father, the main Sabbath food cooker in our house, has always done it; and I like it, so naturally I just asked for his "recipe" when I left home, and now I copy him.  I then put the chicken in the top part of my toaster oven (I most unfortunately do not have a full-size oven in this apartment), turning the three knobs to "broil," "broil," and "stay on."

Once the spices on the chicken turn black, usually about twenty minutes to half an hour after I put it in, I flip it over and leave it till the other side turns brown, usually about ten minutes.  Then I turn the knobs to "350," "bake," and "stay on," where I leave them until just before candle lighting.

Twenty five minutes or so before candle lighting (last week that was 4:45 pm), I jump up again.  I turn the knobs on my toaster oven to "200," "warm," and "stay on," which is where I'll leave them for the entire Sabbath.  This way I can have warm food even though I don't use electricity; and yes, the toaster oven is on a fireproof, granite counter top.  I steam the brussel sprouts (or whatever vegetable) in the microwave (three and a half minutes), transfer them to a piece of foil, and insert them into the lower half of the toaster oven; this way, they'll roast just a little and be nice and hot when I get back from the synagogue.  I also defrost one challah roll (three minutes in the microwave).

After all the cooking is done, I go around the apartment with my special fancy Sabbath duct tape, which looks like it has a galaxy on it.  (I only use it for this purpose, so it will last as long as possible.)  I use two big pieces of tape, criss-crossed, to tape the fridge light shut so I can open and close the fridge on the Sabbath.  (There is no light in my freezer, or I'd do the same thing there.)  Then I go around the apartment, switching on lights that should be on for the whole Sabbath, and switching off lights that should be off for the whole Sabbath, and putting a small piece of "reminder tape" over each one so I don't accidentally mess myself up.

After I finish taping, I mess with my "Sabbath gadgets," as I call them.  I set my timer to go off at 9:30 pm and on at 7:00 am, turn it so it's at the right time, and plug in the lamp that plugs into it.  It's a big lamp that's actually two-in-one; I turn the smaller one on, and the larger one to its brightest setting (that one has a three-way bulb).  This way I get almost as much light as I would via the main light fixture, but it goes off when I need to go to sleep.  I turn my Sabbath lamp on (which I've posted about before) and make sure my Sabbath alarm clock is on, too.  It will ring at 7:00 am and 8:00 am on Saturday morning; it doesn't always wake me but I do like to try.

Finally, this is the point where I make sure I've given tzedakah (loosely translated as charity, but that's not the complete meaning of the word, which is untranslatable).  I actually like to give at the beginning of getting ready, but regardless, I always give on Fridays.  This is my favorite part of getting ready for the Sabbath.  All I do is empty my change from the week into my tzedakah box; it's usually between one and two dollars, though last week I think it was a little more.  Lest you think I'm endlessly and foolishly generous, that's all the charity I ever give.  I've been saving for a while now; after last week's addition, my box has over forty dollars in it! When the box is full--which should be just a couple weeks from now--I will deposit the money, and then make a donation somewhere.  I think this time I'm going to donate to the Lev Lalev (girls' orphanage in Israel) mental health fund, to help their girls with PTSD.  Given my own mental health history, I can't ignore a fund for that.

Right before I light candles, I turn off and move to the side my phone and computer.  At the right time (It was 5:08 pm last week; this week should be a little later), I light candles (Real candles, not electric ones, now that I'm in an apartment!), ushering in the Sabbath.  I also recite a short prayer, which translates to "Blessed are You, my Master, our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to light the Sabbath candles."  (And that actually is a direct, accurate translation.)

After I light candles, I have about 45 minutes before I leave for the synagogue.  (Services start at 6:30 pm;  it takes me about half an hour to get there.)  Usually the very first thing I do is set the table, laying out a meat plate (slightly fancier than my dairy dishes), meat knife and fork, fancy napkin, drinking goblet (though I don't fill it till I come back from the synagogue or the ice would melt), fancier goblet with grape juice, and challah on fancy platter covered with homemade challah cover.

After synagogue, I will say a few more short prayers (one over grape juice, one over handwashing, one over challah), eat, say grace, and generally enjoy the Sabbath.  The next day I will go to synagogue again (I go even if I wake up late; I just catch up on whatever I missed once I'm there and then enjoy however much of the service is left).  I usually eat lunch there, and I'm even starting to make friends to enjoy it with! Then I come home, say afternoon prayers, and read for the rest of the day.

You may be wondering why I don't use electricity.  The answer is somewhat complex.  As a non-Orthodox Jew, I don't believe it is forbidden; I was never convinced by any of the Orthodox arguments.  I don't believe it's like fire because it makes light and heat, because the process is entirely different.  Nor do I believe that flipping on a light completes a circuit, which counts as building, which is forbidden on the Sabbath.  (There IS a forbidden work category called "building"; I just don't believe that's a good example of it.)  Rather, I have found that the lack of electronics serves to further separate my Sabbath from my week, and make it all the more peaceful.

So that's my Sabbath, described! Hope you enjoyed, and I hope this post was not too long! Please comment!

PS: I usually like to listen to Steven Curtis Chapman music while I am getting ready for the Sabbath.  I have a Youtube playlist of songs I picked that do not include the words "Jesus," "Christ," or "Savior."  I've found that most anything else is fine: most of the religious concepts he mentions also appear in Judaism; it's just that we say them in Hebrew, not English, and when said in English, they sound Christian.

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!