Sunday, November 4, 2012

A way to let go

Many years ago, at the start of my shul rabbinate, I learned to appreciate Shabbos.

Before that, my weekday schedule was full but it generally lacked real tension, items which would eat at me until they were concluded. Starting in shul life – as in most careers, I assume – meant that I had conflicts with others that needed resolution, long-term projects that were complicated and came with high stakes, and so on. It was only with Lecha Dodi (a song in the Kabbalat Shabbat segment of Friday night prayers) that I would have to shrug and say, "This will wait." I remember the lift that came with doing that for the first time, saying, "This is off my plate for the next 25 hours."

[As I have said on other occasions, I may be the only Jew who enjoys, and looks forward to, a three-day Yom Tov. Three days with my family, with a chance to rest, with a chance to turn off all of those conflicts and projects – who cares how many classes and speeches I need to present? This is olam haba!]

This past Friday night I chanced upon a technique that adds to my ability to tune out for Shabbos. Kabbalat Shabbat begins with six paragraphs of Tehillim [Psalms], which we are taught correlate with the six phases of Creation. This week, though, it occurred to me that each could also correlate with the six days of the previous week. So as I read each chapter, I thought about what had happened on that day, during the past week. To pick the big items: Sunday was a breakfast shiur, a hachnasas sefer torah [installation of a new Torah], and a dinner in honour of our shul's new Rabbi. Monday was a mess of phone calls and article-writing, a medical shiur and the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. Tuesday was the arrival of leaders of Torah miTzion for their annual North American Convention, a Navi shiur, and cooking dinner (carrot and onion omelette) for the kids. Wednesday was the Convention, two shiurim, editing Toronto Torah. Thursday was more Convention, for the most part, as well as a meeting that brought me a world of frustration. Friday was more Convention, and preparation of shiurim for Shabbos.

As I read each chapter, I thought about the events from that day of the week, and tried to drop them from my mind, to see them as "done". Surprisingly, it worked pretty well. And so I could enter Lecha Dodi having let go, with a feeling that the week was over, and it was time for Shabbos. I could feel my shoulders lift.

Please let me know if you try it and it works for you, or send me your own techniques.


  1. Carrot and onion omelet sound delicious, haw about the recipe?

  2. Shlomo Carlebach used to teach a similar idea - that each mizmor in kabbalat shabbat was meant to fix the corresponding day of the previous week. I think it is even on one of his recordings.

  3. Steve-
    Essentially the one here, but I sliced the carrots very thin, using a peeler. The kids really liked it.

    R' Mordechai-
    Wow; ברוך שכוונתי! Although I don't think of it as tikkun, but rather as an opportunity to put the day to rest.

  4. This is a form of meditation and is effective. Kol hakavod.

  5. Actually I also love three day Yamim Tovim. They can be exhausting for a pulpit rabbi but the ability to disconnect from the stresses of life for three days is a pleasure.

  6. Jon-

    R' Joshua-
    Glad to have someone on my side.