I read Chaviva’s post on faith this morning, and it made me resolved to write about and post what I’ve been thinking about lately.
I’m not having a crisis of faith, but I think I have been having a crisis of observance. I mean, it doesn’t feel much like a crisis— I’m not panicking or self-flagellating; there have been no tears (or, well, not many) or fear that G-d will forsake me… but I am confused and unsure. I think this confusion will probably be a permanent condition my whole life, I mean, uncertainty is a part of the human condition. But a few months ago, I felt more sure of what I was doing, observance-wise.
The last three or four Shabbats, I did not observe the way I had been for the previous six months. The first time, I was really sick and completely miserable. I spent the day in my pyjamas, drinking tea and watching old episodes of 30 Rock. The second time, I was studying for finals, cramming for an exam for which I was not prepared. The last two times, I was at my childhood home, with my family.
I don’t actually really have any guilt about the most recent two Shabbats. I observed the way I always did as a kid: Shabbat dinner with my family, candle-lighting and my mom’s challah and kiddush on non-kosher wine. Electricity and internet and even the gym on Shabbat afternoon. I enjoyed it. I was with the ones who love me most, and I had the comfort of the familiar.
At home in Toronto, with my roommate R, I got accustomed to observing Shabbat the Orthodox way, taping over light switches and remembering to grind the coffee before sundown on Friday afternoon. I like that too— I’ve ended up reading more actual books for pleasure over the last six months than I have in years, just on Shabbat. I love the peace of it. When it was still warm enough, I went on long walks in nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park on Shabbat mornings, and sometimes again in the afternoon. In summer, R and I and often friends sometimes had Shabbat lunch picnics in the park, watching hipsters lean their fixies against lampposts and break out the the PBR. We watched them attempt to tightrope walk and they watched us make kiddush on juice in plastic cups. We ate the challah I’d baked and sat around in the oppressively humid Toronto summer heat.
I’m learning, again, that it’s really hard to be shomer shabbat (let alone shomer mitzvot) on one’s own. Too many shabbats alone are, well, lonely and isolating. I’m often too shy to invite people I don’t know well (and who are mostly much older than me) to lunch at my house. Thank G-d for Friday night services at the College Street gallery with Makom; I just wish it was more often than twice a month. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m no longer living with Rachel. My mother said (wisely, I think) that it doesn’t all have to be black and white, that I don’t have to do the exact same thing every single week, that I can “do as the Romans do,” depending on where I am, who I’m with, and how I feel.
I think she’s right. That’s all I can do, at this point in my life. Taking things one Shabbat, one day, one moment at a time. I wish I had a cohesive and consistent practice with regards to observance, but maybe that’s an impossible wish right now. (Maybe it’s impossible wish ever, considering the inconsistencies of halakhah itself, but that’s another post.)
I still believe, as I always have, in G-d. I want that closeness, I want that deep and perfect fire. For me it facilitates observance. Maybe I just need to find that feeling more often.