The Shabbat mornings of my youth were tranquil, filled with quiet anticipation. My father, tilted back in his recliner, reviewed the parashah of the week in slippers and robe. Breakfast was leisurely; often we sat in the yard enjoying the sunshine and the breeze. But Shabbat afternoons in the summer were excruciatingly long. Living in the suburbs, my closest friend was a mile’s walk. Another friend was a three mile walk. The emptiness of the day yawned large, and once my parents retired for their Shabbat nap, I became restless. It was a happy day when I was deemed old enough to walk to my friend’s alone.
Shabbat mornings now are similarly tranquil. My husband rises early to meet his study-partner before prayers begin in shul. My teenage daughter leaves shortly afterward for her volunteer work as a junior congregation leader, followed by the rest of the family. At home, I linger over tea and cake, read the Jewish newspaper, and prepare for Shabbat lunch while my baby naps. We are the last family members to arrive at shul.
Unlike my childhood home, we currently live in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in an urban setting, and this changes those long Shabbat afternoons. My children can walk to any number of friends and are fortunate to have weekly Shabbat parties at various homes. Mothers and fathers congregate at a local playground, tots in tow, and chat while the little ones play. The teens travel in small packs, swarming from home to home, eating, talking, and moving on. The women of the community gather to study Ethics of the Fathers, lingering to socialize afterward.
It is true that one can celebrate Shabbat anywhere, but it is most fully appreciated within the embrace of a vibrant and like-minded community, where the day is filled with meaning and companionship.