I grew up in an observant home, but Shabbat is only a memory for me. Much of what I remember I remember fondly: tackle football with friends at the public park near my home; tackle football with my brothers in the basement; long meals with my family and close friends; no school and no homework; reading and reading becoming napping in the light at the end of the afternoon. But the greater portion of this memory, or the continual color of it, is the discomfiting memory of waiting. Waiting for shul to end on Shabbat morning was unbearable. When I was young, I waited impatiently for Shabbat to end, so I could play videogames—when I was older, so I could hit the dope town. I waited my entire childhood, from the starry point of first consciousness to its end, for eighteen and college to come, so I would not have to go to shul, so I would not have to wait until six-thirty or eight-thirty, or whatever it was. Sometimes, I averted from waiting and fought with my parents over these obligations. Those were times of intellectual contestation and vigorous argument and careful contemplation, and such fighting is, in fact, the inflection of many of my dearest Shabbat memories, drawing me tightly to mother and father both.
At school, I no longer had to wait. I was free to do as I pleased and ceased observing the day altogether. But strangely, immediately, Shabbat presented itself to me in a transfiguring light, the radical antidote to all that displeased me here. The ancient still which could counter the pace of every life towards innumerable goals, mindlessly, sleeplessly; the ancient still to the pacey days, which blurred. The ancient grateful sense of things unseen and beyond which could contradict the strict rationalism and materialism of every disposition, usurp it and replace with sanctity, or reverence—at any rate, attentiveness. More and more, I came to think of it as the radically right way of life in general, and returned to the luminescent portions of my memory: the interactive friendship and free physical exertion, the Feed and family and Read, and the conversations in all these things.
It remains in thinking, for I laze, and find the pressure of school always leaning through my best interests and wants, and find it hard to break. When I was young, we lived among other observant Jews; where I do not, here, observing—at all, especially idiosyncratically, unorthodoxly—is abnormal and demands more energy than I can muster. Nonetheless, thinking has fruits in the world: simply thinking of Shabbat in this kind way deflects my living towards vital color and awareness, reverence, all that is good. And, whenever I do return home, and am home for Shabbat, these new thoughts are realized in their proper shapes. I no longer wait for any ends or beginning. I play soccer and football with my brothers, and muck about with friends, and eat well with my family, and read well past the descending sun, and snooze, and do no work, and attend shul if I wish or do not, and do not mind. All these things I do with newfound care. All I miss are the great arguments with my parents over this religious matter or that, the energy and the love of them, for we now agree on these matters, and that vitriol is in disagreement with Shabbat, which is living in thorough agreement with the universe and all persons who are.
I do miss the ago agitation of my antagonism toward the day and those who imposed it on me. But the exchange of it for a sweeter notion has been a source of astonishing happiness and strength, and not only in itself but on every day of the every week. Shabbat is the thought of happiness and strength in the ordinary world. I regret it not, and now not a thing.
But strangely, immediately, the Nassau Weekly presented itself to me in a transfiguring light, the radical antidote to all that displeased Joel Newberger here.