Monday, May 30, 2011

Oneg Shabbat - When Food is More than Food

I was concerned – my ten day old infant had slept most of the night.  “Isn’t that good?” my husband said.  “At a month, maybe, but not at this age.”  He would begin feeding only to fall asleep within a few moments, then wake and begin again.  “We’ll ask the doctor tomorrow.”
“That can’t be right,” I said to the nurse.  We weighed the baby again.  And again.  And again.  He’d lost seven ounces in a week.  Dr. K took one look at the baby and grew serious.  He gently pinched the baby’s skin, watched as the indentation very slowly refilled, then said, “You’re going to the Hospital right now.”
Friday morning it became clear that baby and I would remain in the hospital over Shabbat.  My room was equipped with motion-activated lights.  The shared parents’ bathroom boasted motion-activated lights and faucets.  The family room refrigerator lit-up when opened.  And to get back to my room I’d have to press a button to open the doors to the NICU.
A late afternoon move shuffled several patients to install me in the one and only non-electronic room on the floor.  The nurse had unscrewed the light-bulb in the fridge; I would follow others into the NICU as they passed through the electronic doors.  As for food…well, I had no way of heating anything, so my rice-crackers and fruit would have to do.  My husband was “making Shabbat” with our children at home.
But I hadn’t counted on Batya.  She sent over a large box of food.  And not just any food: home-made Shabbat food.  So, while the NICU’s family room filled with anguished parents on their cell-phones and the TV blared celebrity gossip and reality shows, I was making my own reality at a corner table: fresh challah rolls, matzah ball soup, chicken – even dessert.  Far from being a mere sop to the body, this food made Shabbat, bringing its spirit into my soul, too.


  1. Another exaple of how Shabbat sustains us. Please pardon the pun, but I'm hungry for more: what happened to the mother and the baby?

  2. Thanks for asking! The baby was tested for some scary things (Baruch Hashem he didn't have any of these) rehydrated, and taught how to nurse. It was a long haul and he's still little - but active! And Mom learned that even after 6 other kids, there's still always more to learn about mothering!