Stay-at-Home Front

Day Five: Bring in the light

As the saying goes, it’s not the Jews who have kept Shabbat. It’s Shabbat that has kept the Jews.

Challah and candles lit prior to the start of Shabbat.
Challah and candles lit prior to the start of Shabbat.
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk is managing editor of the U.S. bureau of JNS.

And they’re back! Back with everything a kid brings to college these days, in bins and plastic bags, and milk crates … a rolled-up rug. I won’t look in the garage. I won’t, I won’t, I will not.

I’m just glad that they’re home, safe and sound, and in time for Shabbat.

That one day of the week when we all need to regroup, to get away from our devices (which have now become our connection to the world), our landlines and televisions, to rest and have quality family time.

Of course, we’ve all had a lot of that this week.

But really, all religions have their days—their celebrations and holidays. We of the Jewish tradition are fortunate to get ours once a week. As the sun goes down on Fridays—and it’s getting later and later now that we are entering spring—out comes the candlesticks and wine, the challah under its cover, the nice napkins and tablecloth, and appetizers and soup we normally wouldn’t bother with the other days of the week.

And we shouldn’t. We should save this one evening meal on Fridays as something special that stands out from the week. We mark it differently. We talk and we laugh and we linger far longer over any other dinner. We ask our children questions, and we ask our guests their opinions. It’s so wonderfully old school.

As the saying goes, it’s not the Jews who have kept Shabbat. It’s Shabbat that has kept the Jews.

And with all there is in the world today—namely, the virus that knows no religion, that doesn’t differentiate among homes—we need a few hours where the darkness remains outside our doors, and we relish in the light and love indoors. There is so much wrong out there, so much hate and nastiness, so much that can seem to divide us … and yet.

There is that which unites.

More than ever, that has to be the world’s calling card, our challenge. We must unite. We must gather our forces together and beat this COVID-19 back where it came from so we can have our normal again. If anything, the coronavirus has knocked us all down from our pedestals. There is so much we don’t control, and that’s what has us all flustered and disconcerted and worried and downright afraid.

But we do control our actions, our ability to do some good. Whether that is helping a neighbor (from afar) or giving charity (tzedakah), we can do something to feel less helpless. To empower and feel good.

So this Shabbat, think good thoughts. Think healing thoughts. And welcome the light.

Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.

This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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