Shabbat dinner on Friday night is probably the least objectionable thing about Shabbat. Maybe even the least objectionable thing about Judaism. (That’s not to say that Judaism on the whole is objectionable. On the whole, I think it is a lovely and meaningful religion. But nearly every longstanding religion has some elements of nonsensical tradition or outdated philosophy or practice that doesn’t align to modern sensibilities – and Judaism, in my opinion, certainly has its fair share.)
Seriously though, who doesn’t love Shabbat dinner? When I was in college, everyone came to Shabbat dinner at Hillel. Observant Jews (there weren’t many), non-Observant Jews, non-Jews – everyone showed up. In fairness, who doesn’t love a free dinner? But I feel like Jews all across the spectrum of religiosity enjoy a festive Friday night meal in some form.
I get it. I used to love it too. I loved the sense of peace I would get upon lighting Shabbat candles. I enjoyed the company, food, conversations, discussions, zmirot. I especially loved huge, long, late group Shabbat dinners of Big Party Judaism, but even a Shabbat dinner with just my family or one or two others was great.
Now when Friday night comes around, I just feel an overwhelming sense of failure and disappointment. The failure of all the things that didn’t get done that week. The failure of not being ready for Shabbat, even in the summer when it isn’t a crazy early deadline. The failure of never making any real progress or improvement on anything. The failure of this being the case every single week.
I’m not looking for Shabbat preparation tips. I already know them all. I am well-aware of the time-money-expectations trade-off. We have certainly done our part to support our local kosher eating establishments.
A lot of this reflects lack of motivation. Of course I could start getting ready for Shabbat earlier in the week. I just don’t have the motivation. We scaled expectations back as much as possible. But lowering expectations lowers motivation.
So does a lousy marriage. It is really, really difficult to work up any motivation to put together a nice Shabbat dinner together when the relationship is this broken and having a pleasant conversation can be a challenge. In fairness, the lack of pleasant Friday night dinner conversation is mostly my fault. I tend to be such a terrible mood come Friday night (see above paragraphs) that I often get nasty and start the arguments myself, although it also doesn’t take much to start an argument around here.
I almost didn’t write that last paragraph because I know the obvious response from the commenters and I’m not really in the mood to hear it. Just like I’m not really in the mood to hear time management tips. (I still love you, readers/commenters! Really!) But what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t actually write about stuff.
With in-person services opening back up again, maybe I’ll try going to Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday night) services again. I used to really enjoy Kabbalat Shabbat services but with getting ready for Shabbat, the timing was always tough. But I like the idea of dinner not being the focal point of Friday night, so maybe it’s worth prioritizing synagogue attendance instead. We were streaming Kabbalat Shabbat services (such as Shabbat@Home by Josh Nelson, one of the synagogues on the My Jewish Learning link, or my hometown congregation’s Zoom services) and they were nice, but it wasn’t enough to dramatically improve the atmosphere.
Sigh. I’m barely one cup of coffee into this Friday and I’m already in a bad mood just thinking about Shabbat…
Shabbat sucked this week, but it wasn’t entirely due to my bad attitude. We had another apartment disaster of sorts, albeit not as bad as this other apartment disaster that happened on Shabbat. I’m starting to think G-d reads my blog and enjoys messing with me when I complain too much. Sigh.
Shavua tov, y’all.