Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Peace Of Shabbos

R' Yoni Lavie

There you are, driving along a highway. Your foot is pressed hard on the gas pedal, and your car cuts through the wind like a red-hot knife. Your hands caress the wheel hard, and your eyes are glued to the road, which weaves left and right like a wild snake.

The speed indicator long ago crossed the 100 km/hr mark, while you left behind a long colored line of cars which could not keep up your pace. You glance at the clock in your control panel, and you see that you have less than twenty minutes to make it to your very important meeting. You say to yourself, "I will not be late this time. I must get there on time!"

You press the accelerator to the floor, and the motor reacts with a roar, reminding you of a horse which hears the gun at the start of a race.

And then...

Suddenly, there it is. You see an annoying green light begin to flash, which changes to yellow in two seconds, a warning that a red light will soon follow.

Within a fraction of a second, your brain begins to analyze the fateful dilemma: Will I manage to get through this irritating delay if I get the car to go faster, or is it too late? Will I have to give up and waste two precious minutes with an unnecessary wait at a red light?

Unfortunately, this time there is no choice. You move your foot from the gas to the brakes, and your new tires screech and leave a black mark on the road. You are the first one in line at the light. In the few seconds before the other cars line up behind you, you open the window and try to get some idea of what is going on outside.

You turn to the left. A spectacular blue carpet of the Mediterranean Sea is spread out before your eyes. There is white foam at the edges, and the blue water is peppered with pesky waves. On your right, there is spring in the air. Everything is colored with fresh green, spiced with carpets of red "kalaniot" - anemone flowers. A light breeze with a scent of the ocean wafts through the open window, gently petting your cheek.

You react out loud. "What wonderful weather. It is a waste to run the air conditioner on such a day, and it is a shame to be riding in a car. Look how nice it is outside..."

A white family car of an old model stops to your right, and you can hear the children and their laughter. The sound excites a hidden chord within you.

You begin to think. "When you fly along on the road, you are so alone. You are an individual surrounded by a lot of other metal boxes on wheels. And then, suddenly, at the traffic light, you discover that the boxes are full of life. There are children inside."

They are just like your own children... The four precious little ones that are waiting at home to see you. How much you miss them. Just as in the past, today too they will probably not have the privilege of seeing their father. They will all be asleep when he gets home, you can merely hope to exchange a few words with your yawning wife, both of you almost totally asleep...

There is only one thing that helps you in this situation. Today is Thursday. Only one more day is left before this crazy week will release you from its clutches, and will let you get away from it all. You think, "Whoever thought of this idea of Shabbat is a genius. What would I do without it?"

Once a week you get an opportunity to look at your own children straight in the eyes, and to gulp down their childish laughter, like a fresh drink. Once a week you have an opportunity to meet live people and not moving boxes of metal, or screens full of data and Excel tables full of numbers.

Once every week you have an opportunity to look at the sky, to breathe the fresh scent of the flowers, and to listen to the pulse of nature, and your own pulse too...

This is one day every week when you can exist and not only perform, when you can experience life and not only do things, when you can "recalculate the route" and not only push the gas pedal down to the floor and speed forward without seeing anybody else around you.

You get one day a week when you can ask yourself all those questions that you don't have time to ask (or perhaps that you are afraid to ask...): Am I happy with the way I am? Is this what I always hoped for? One day, when I reach the end of my journey, will I be sorry about the way I lived my life?

What a wondrous thing this special day of the week is! If only it could last a bit longer. If only we could continue to taste its charm for more than one day...

You could have continued in your daydreaming for much longer, but the horn blowing in the car behind you made you lose your train of thought. You open your eyes to discover that the traffic light is no longer on your side. It has changed, and your sweet moment of reflection has evaporated.

You put your foot on the gas pedal, and your car jumps forward, back into the daily routine. All that remains with you is a sense of yearning and the feeling of a brief pinch on your face.

"What a shame. The light changed. Shabbat is over..."