In Judaism, Shabbat is observed at Sunset every Friday evening and comes to a close at Sunset on Saturday with the Havdalah.
My childhood was “very Jewish”, and there are glimpses of Shabbat in my faraway memories but it’s not something my parents embraced as first and second-generation Jews when they started a family. Both grew up in Jewish households and from talks with my mom and grandma from years back, my mother’s family was a bit more to the orthodox side, where a Kosher Kitchen was kept and the family abstained from all work from Sunset to Sunset. (Or maybe my father’s side, because there were a ton of Steiner’s and Weiner’s). At one, my ancestors were fresh off the boat, only spoke Yiddish, the men wore yarmulkes, grew Payot (sideburns) woreTzitzii’s (prayer shawl tucked in with the outsides exposed to allow for the four corners of the world), prayer was maintained and the Shabbat was observed, religiously. We did not do that in my childhood. And the strong adherence to the culture would be lost somewhat in my generation and the ones that followed me. (Now my guilt is as strong as my forefathers should have been and most likely you would have found me wandering the 40 years like so many others have and do. Damn, we really should have taken down all those Amalekites when we had the chance all those years ago.)
So, What do I mean by “religiously”. The “Shabbat” in itself is a period to rest, recharge and focus on G_d. We are to abstain from all forms of work and expenditure of energy. To make the point, think about this: Orthodox and more observant Jewish people don’t use the internet or smartphones from Friday evening till Saturday evening (or at least they aren’t supposed to). Can you imagine? But, is it the religion or the adherence to the laws we are talking about, and if so, how does that all intersect with Spirituality?
Getting lost in the weeds here, as the idea was does adhering to the rituals of Shabbat make one more or less Jewish? Anyone can celebrate Shabbat, but it doesn’t make them Jewish. Conversely, it also doesn’t make you spiritual. It is an act of obedience as part of worship. But the People that abide by the laws of the “Torah” (the first five books of Moses, or also the first five books of the Bible) see themselves as a people, and no matter how hard you try, unless you are born Jewish, you aren’t considered Jewish. There is conversion, which is when someone undergoes a training in order to take up the Jewish Faith and “Religion”, but even then, there are sects of Judaism that don’t recognize that, unless it’s culturally convenient. A point in case would be the late Sammy Davis Jr. who converted, and so one could say there were black Jewish people. (Fun Fact: Did you know both Marilyn Monroe and LIz Taylor converted ?) but typically, a lot of people just poo-poo the people that convert and don’t consider them “Jewish”. (think Ivanka and roll your eyes once or twice as that Blondie shiksa is about as Jewish as I am Afro American). So, is it a religion or peoples? And Can anyone celebrate Shabbat? And Conversly, if a Jewish person doesn’t celebrate Shabbat, does that make them less Jewish or do they still get to be Jewish? Or what about someone who was born to a Jewish family but distances self altogether; are they still Jewish? Oy, so many questions and not the one’s needing to be answered at this time (but go ahead and google, you will be surprised)
But when you are growing up Jewish (and feeling it more now in these years heading into the backside), things look different. As a child, I didn’t see it as it was intended. You see it as a scary set of stifling rules and a tremendous sense of guilt for not being perfect (at least I did). My overcompensation was to wear a “SuperJew” T-shirt all throughout Jr. HIgh). The Bigger Picture that escaped me in my earlier years was the “Whole Jewish thing” was for the community. For people to find a way to live a life centered around a system of values and laws (the Ten Commandments) that were intended to focus on all the blessings that we receive from “Adonai” and to live a full and blessed life, to be guaranteed somewhat by following the rules as set out. Hmmmm. It’s presented that way, at least. Doesn’t necessarily always work out that way, but it was the goal. Attached to that was abject worship of G_d for all and everything, ergo, the prayer, “Baruch ata Adonai”, or “Blessed art thou’ oh Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe”.
Anyone can celebrate Shabbat, You don’t have to be Jewish. You don’t even have to believe in God. Rest. Recharge. Reconnect with who you are and take note of what you have in the here and now. And be Grateful.