Sunday, January 28, 2007

Friday Night Spirituality vs. Friday Night Spirituality: An Internal Struggle

Man is often faced with making difficult choices. Here, I list a choice that I've personally been struggling with, and maybe there are others who struggle with the same. And I'd like to hear of how others are dealing with this as well...

When Shabbos arrives, a certain peace comes over me. Sure, we all know how hectic Friday is, but when I walk out the door and head to shul with my son, nothing else matters and I know that Shabbos is upon us. It is a feeling unlike any other.

There are times when I head to a shul where the davening is nice, but totally uninspiring. The davening isn't long (about 45 minutes to an hour or so), and the Rav of the shul does say over a nice short dvar torah, but I don't feel much different after returning home from this shul. In addition, the seating in this shul is such that my son usually sits on the other side of shul or upstairs in the ezras nashim -- but not by my side.

Then there's another shul I go to at times. The Rav is chassidish and therefore the davening doesn't start until much later. The davening is also longer (usually about an hour and a half). But let me tell you -- what a davening. There is so much spirituality. A truly beautiful and inspiring davening here always includes joyous singing. More seating in this shul allows my son to sit by my side, and that brings a tremendous amount of nachas to me. After Maariv, the Rav also sings a short song (Shabbos Shulem) and I have to admit that upon returning home after this davening, I am truly on a different level altogether. Not only is the davening uplifting, I am filled with a happiness that is difficult to describe. It is a kind of spiritual uplifting that defines shabbos itself.

Then there's a different kind of spirituality -- that of sitting around a shabbos table with your family. It's true when it is said that one friday night shabbos meal can produce a baal teshuvah. For me (one who often travels during the week), holding that becher (cup) of wine in my hand reciting kiddush, while my family stands with me, with the table set in beauty, with the flames of my wife's shabbos candles basking the entire room in a special glow, is a feeling that gives me untold strength. The entire meal is spiritually uplifting.

And therein lies my dilemna.

When I return home late from shul, the younger ones in the family are tired. More importantly, my wife, who has worked hard preparing for shabbos, is also tired. And that means that a meal that starts later isn't as spiritual -- especially if the family finds it difficult to particpate when they are truly exhausted. And I totally understand that as well.

So I can choose to go to a faster yet less spiritually uplifting davening, but return home to a more spiritually uplifting meal, or attend a more spiritually uplifting davening, at the risk of a less spiritually uplifting meal at home.

As a man, I'll admit that I want both. Hence, the internal struggle.

I'll close with a personal story on Friday Night Spirituality. On my first visit to Eretz Yisroel about 4 years ago, my brother was also there learning in yeshiva. We had agreed that we would eat together at my hotel Friday night and that we would meet up at the Kotel. Mind you, having never been at the Kotel on a Friday night, I had no idea what I was about to experience.

When walking towards the Kotel that Friday night, I was surrounded by many others also walking, but when I made that final turn and saw the Kotel, I was not prepared for what greeted my eyes. Tens of thousands of Jews -- of EVERY kind -- all davening, singing, dancing. It's a sight I can never describe and yet one that I will never forget. And here I thought I'd never find my brother in all of this.

I was with several friends from my shul and we made our own minyan amongst all the others there at the Kotel and as I opened my siddur to begin davening, I heard a familiar voice -- that of my brother -- who was standing right beside me.

Maybe my internal struggle for a more spiritual friday night davening is my soul's attempt to reach the level I did that Friday night at the Kotel in Israel.

As always Jameel, thank you for giving me the opportunity to post my thoughts on your blog.


Wherever I am, Jameel's blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Anonymous said...

It can be helpful to have the children nap on erev shabbat, and give your wife some extra time to relax when you know u will be home later with more spirituality.

Anonymous said...

Is there a third option? Maybe a shul that has more uplifting davening but shorter/earlier Shabbat evening services? Or maybe you could talk to the other men at the chasidishe shul to see how their families accomodate the longer/later davening?

Michael said...

What a beautiful dilemma to have to face! It's a great thing about living in Israel...

I'll admit, I don't get to shul for kabbalat shabbat very often... my wife spends all day Friday preparing Shabbat dinner and lunch (unless we're invited somewhere), and someone has to watch Big Girl and Sabra Baby...

But when we light the candles, and my sings and dances with the girls, and we all sit down together as a family (along with whoever we've invited for dinner that week), then it feels that Shabbat has come...

Anonymous said...

Wow Gumby,

You shure have it rough! Especially this time of year when Shabbos starts at 4:30pm.

How can you justify making Mrs. Gumby and the Chicklets wait for you until the wee hour of 6:30pm?

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