Friday is a wonderful time in Israel because it heralds the Jewish Sabbath. I’ve often compared the Sabbath in Israel to a huge umbrella descending on the whole country. Sorry, world. We need a break – see you Sunday. Friday is a day of mad preparation. Shopping. Cleaning. And suddenly, the Sabbath arrives, the candles are lit, the table set with the finest of our dishes and the smells of our favorite recipes fills the house.
This Shabbat is a little different, a little emptier than usual. We’ve had weekends where both our two oldest children weren’t home, but somehow this one seems different. Elie is much further away. Not just in physical distance, but in the sense that his daily schedule is so much out of sync with ours. He rises at 4:30 a.m., long before we awaken, he is already going about his day. We can’t reach him during the day, other than to send text messages to his phone that we know he won’t see until the evening.
The one time when we are all in sync, if still separated by great distances, is on the Sabbath. Though he couldn’t come home, he will still have a special meal, go to the synagogue in the morning and most important, he will have time to do nothing but enjoy the day and rest.
The Sabbath is family time in Israel. The rest of the week, our schedules are crazy. Hectic, almost never ending. For me, it is always a whirlwind of activity – emails, meetings, kids, laundry, phones, computers, lectures (www.writepoint.com will give you an idea of part of what keeps me busy) and more. Friday is the day I slow down and get back to family issues that might have been pushed aside during the week.
But Saturday, our Shabbat, is precious because it is 25 hours of uninterrupted down time. Family time. Kids and meals and friends and spiritually reconnecting with both the Divine and the physical. Each Friday night, as I light the candles, I ask for a blessing for each of my children. I give thanks for the week that has past and pray for the week to come. This week, I feel almost a sense of desperation, but also of gratitude.
May God bless my son, Benyamin Elimelech (who we lovingly call Elie because he would never have the patience to wait while we called him by his full name). May He watch over him and all the soldiers of Israel this day and every day and may God bless Israel, our land and our people.
Shabbat shalom, Elie – we love you.