For me, one noteworthy thing about the year of 2020 (other than the fact that it sucked because of the pandemic) is that I hit 10 years of “keeping” Shabbat.
Admittedly, definitions are everything. Even in my most observant days, there are things I never kept. Like I always ripped toilet paper on Shabbat. I suppose I could have pre-ripped it, but I never did. It just seemed stupid, that the otherwise holy observance of Shabbat would be broken completely by a piece of toilet paper.
Actually, even the language of “breaking Shabbat” bothers me. Like you could keep Shabbat for 99% of the day, or keep 99% of the rules, but mess up on 1% and Shabbat is broken and shattered, like a Christmas ornament that fell on the floor and splintered into a million worthless pieces. The 99% that you kept means nothing.
But even setting aside the toilet paper, there were weeks over the years that due to circumstances (travel, weddings, deadlines, relative in hospital, etc.) that I compromised/broke Shabbat. I don’t always think I made the right decision on what to compromise, and sometimes, I wish I had chosen against keeping the halachot that I did keep.
And as mentioned in previous posts, I participate in Zoom services on Shabbat and Yom Tov. The Conservative movement issued a teshuvah allowing the livestreaming of services on Shabbat. Orthodox considers this a halachic violation still. But I started using Zoom on Shabbat before the Conservative movement okayed it and would have done it even if they hadn’t. Honestly, it’s one of the better parts of Shabbat for me these days.
So perhaps it is more accurate to say that I self-identified as Shomer Shabbat for 10 years, even though my practice didn’t always reflect this. A so-called vegetarian who didn’t always keep it, if you will. I had a cousin like this.
Still, 10 years of mostly keeping Shabbat should feel like an accomplishment. I did make the lifestyle changes. I gave up long weekends. I gave up hobbies, trips, socializing that conflicted with Shabbat. I told my bosses and worked around it (The non-Jewish bosses/HR were exceptionally accommodating; the Jewish bosses/HR gave me the hardest time). I spent all those Saturdays doing nothing but Shabbat, and all that other time during the week to prep. I took all that time off from work for Yom Tov. I was active in the Jewish community. I never really succeeded in hosting guests for Shabbat meals, but I tried and had limited, mild success with this. So I should be proud of myself. 10 years.
But it’s bittersweet because truthfully, I would like to quit. I kept Shabbat for 10 years and now I would like to stop. And when I look back now on those 10 years, although there was a lot of good that came out of keeping Shabbat, there’s also a lot that feels like wasted time. When I compare what I accomplish in a week/weekend to what my non-Shabbat-observant sister accomplishes, it is pitiful. I realize it’s a bad idea to compare in general, that my sister is a much more industrious and competent person than I am generally, that even without Shabbat, I sucked at time management.
It’s just…10 years is a long time.