By Laura Seymour
In preparing a lesson on Shabbat, I came across a piece that I had not read in many years but it certainly got me thinking. Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro wrote the paper “Three Jews — Three Models for Work and Rest on Shabbat.” He speaks of the walker, the museum-goer and the painter. Here is a summary of his thoughts:
The walker is a Jew who makes the seventh day holy by choosing not to use the car and not to spend or even carry money on Shabbat. The walker puts aside these so-called necessities of modern life and uses Shabbat afternoon, in particular, as a time for taking walks, private reading, studying with a group of friends, picnicking or any activity along these lines. What the walker does on Shabbat afternoon is a total change of pace from anything done on other days.
The museum-goer will spend money and drive on Shabbat, although he or she limits the use of money or the automobile to certain activities that he or she feels are appropriate for the creation of a meaningful Shabbat. The museum-goer would say that spending money on Shabbat is not the issue, as much as it is how one spends money that matters. In this case, the museum-goer is approaching Shabbat as a day of freedom from necessity.
The painter does something very different when he or she puts down the figurative paintbrush of the work week. When other Jews believe that Shabbat ought to mean avoiding the creative process, how can the painter claim to be observing Shabbat? Painting might be just the antidote for that lifestyle because it involves such a totally different perspective on life. For that matter, any creative endeavor might also bring a breath of fresh air into our lives. It would be a Shabbat activity if it were an activity we didn’t pursue on the other days of the week.
Each of us must make the decision on how to “observe and remember” Shabbat — the Torah uses both terms in two different places. Today, “observe” has specific guidelines although many families create their own way of “observing” Shabbat.
However, “remembering” is another way of thinking about making Shabbat a special day. This reminds me of my children talking about “remembering kashrut” — when they were eating something that was not kosher, they would say, “My mother would never allow this.” Perhaps they were not “keeping kosher,” but they were definitely “remembering kosher.”
However you choose to observe or remember in today’s busy world, Shabbat is even more crucial for all of us.
Laura Seymour, is director of life and learning and director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.