The Spiritual Romance of Shabbos
A couple approached me to perform their marriage ceremony. When we interviewed each other, they told me that they did not want a ‘religious’ ceremony. “Then why come to a Rabbi,” I asked. “Because our parents want a Rabbi to do the ceremony,” they replied. Well, it is nice that we do things for our parents. I agreed to marry them but I did not agree to a secular ceremony .
We began our meetings. Every time different spiritual aspects of Judaism were brought up, they were met with displeasure. They just were not interested. One day I decided to come at the challenge from a different angle and that, dear friends is the story I wish to share.
They both worked very hard. I suggested that they find a time to be together without the baggage of the workweek. They agreed that such an idea was important and I went on. “This should be a space without time,” I suggested. “Watches and clocks become unimportant in this space. Imagine a whole day where you concentrate on each other, not on the telephone or email or business of any kind, which includes worrying about the bills, or who said what at work. This is a time for the two of you!” They were warming to the idea.
Next I suggested that they should start this 24-hour weekly vacation, not in the morning, but at night. In this way they could divest themselves of the workaday and invest in the holiday before going to bed. They agreed that this idea made sense.
I then recommended that this space without time should have the theme of romance. They really liked that concept. “So let’s discuss what makes the beginning of this space romantic. Mood is important.” I suggested. The woman came up with the idea of candles as a ‘mood-modifier’. “What a good idea,” I agreed. “And what about a ‘mood-enhancer’ after a long week of work and separation? How about a little wine? This too was met with enthusiasm.”Great, we have candles to soften the edges of a hard week and wine to enhance the mood. Now, how about something simple to eat, to begin your romantic meal.” I proposed that they buy what is often called ‘egg bread’ from a bakery and just before the meal, heat it up in the oven. The aroma would be heartening and the warm soft bread would make a sweet beginning to the romantic time together.
I pushed the idea that this was a romantic getaway from time by putting forth the idea that they should, in the morning read to each other and take a walk together and maybe even a picnic. Their enthusiasm was growing.
“But how do we end this wonderful romantic day,” I asked. I answered my own question with the idea of creating memory pegs so that they could carry a sense of the romantic space into the next week. “First, light a candle together as the stars twinkle. Then drink a little wine together, maybe even from the same cup. Next, find some sweet smelling spices. After all our olfactory system is deeply connected to memory. Lastly, put the candle out in the wine. With no lights on, the room will be plunged into darkness as the candle sizzles out in the wine. The taste of the wine, the smell of the spices and even the light of the candle will linger in your minds.” They were quite taken with the idea, so much so that they began that week.
Of course I suggested that they try to do it on Friday night, the traditional end of the workweek in Judaism. And during the next several months, they perfected their romantic ritual. They even began to invite some friends over to share in the romantic dinner ritual on Friday night.
All was going well until they invited another Jewish couple over who asked why they did not say the Shabbos blessings as they began their Shabbos rituals. They were flabbergasted and even a tad miffed with me. When they came for their next session they said: “You tricked us!” Then they explained how their other Jewish friends blew the scam.
I asked them if, up to that point, they had enjoyed and found a beauty in the idea of celebrating a romantic time called Shabbos. They admitted that they had. “What is in a name…,” I quoted. Then I urged them to continue, saying that I might be able to help them enjoy it even more. I asked for their patience and began to teach them the blessings for the rituals that they were doing.
I explained that the blessing said for lighting candles was a statement of awe for the sacred connection of light.
The blessings for wine and Hallah (egg bread) were statements of awareness that these items come from the earth not simply from the supermarket; that we are connected to the earth from which comes the food we eat and the wine we drink.
Then I went one step further. When we become aware, when we bring awe into our relationship with each other, we are elevating our relationship by acknowledging that we have another relationship of importance. Some call it ‘G’; some call it a ‘greater power’. I call it, ‘The Wholly One of Being’ (pun intended).
A few weeks later, the couple celebrated their wedding embraced in a religious ceremony. Though over the years I have lost touch with this couple, I like to think that they have continued to celebrate Shabbos and that they have expanded on their romantic adventure into a realm of spirituality.
Shabbos is for everyone and we all need a Shabbos.