Authors Note: This article appeared in the June, 2020 issue of The Scroll.
Ahhh… Shabbos. My favorite day of the week. Even when I was locked up in quarantine and then isolation, Shabbos was still my favorite day of the week. I can’t exactly tell you why… It’s not that I don’t work on Shabbos; after all, I didn’t work when I was in quarantine and isolation. There is a special quality to the day that just calls to me. Shabbos is just a mental recharge every week, regardless of what the rest of my week was like. I also, sometimes, get my best ideas on Shabbos.
Take this past Shabbos, for example. I went to bed on Friday night between 9 and 10, as usual. I woke up, did my morning wake up routine and went into the kitchen. Normally, if I have remembered to leave water on the Blech, I will have a cup of tea or coffee. After coffee, I went to shul (also known as the living room), sat in the premier cantor’s chair (also known as my recliner), and proceeded to recite the morning services.
On a typical Shabbos morning, it is not unusual for me to sing during the prayers like we do in shul. I will sing Kel Adon, for example. On Yom Tov, I sang the entire Hallel just like we do in shul. Sometimes, I will even do a cantorial piece because it just makes the prayer more meaningful to me. For example, a few weeks ago we blessed the month of Iyyar. The cantorial piece I usually recite for that was recorded by my father and, therefore, has great meaning to me. I did that piece right there in the middle of my shul… uh… living room.
I also take the time to read the entire Torah portion for the week (which, lately, have been double Parshiyot) and the Haftorah as well. All in all, the service takes me about an hour to an hour and a quarter.
After services, I pulled out some of my Sefarim and spent a couple of hours learning. I reviewed the sections of Talmud and Mishnah I expected to cover during our Shabbat morning learning groups (which are now happening during the week, in the evenings, via Zoom. If you would like to join us, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you to the notification list. Include your cell phone number and, if you use WhatsApp, I will add you to our WhatsApp group which is a fun place), and during our weekday Facebook Live afternoon services. I spent some time reviewing Halacha and a few other topics. That took me until about noon.
Noon was the best part of the day. There was a knock on the door. On went the mask and gloves and I grabbed a few things: a small table, a bottle of scotch, a bottle of bourbon (yes, I know, we are a scotch Shul but I will admit to heresy and state that I happen to like a good bourbon) and some disposable Schnapps cups. I opened the door.
Our front lawn is about 20 feet long. At the end of the walk by the sidewalk were two of our closest friends in town. I put the table in the middle of the walk, about equidistant between us, took a shot of bourbon and stepped back to my porch. They came forward and helped themselves to some scotch. We made Kiddush and just enjoyed a nice conversation in gorgeous weather for the better part of an hour. People walked by and we shared some laughs at our impromptu, socially distant, Kiddush. It was a beautiful, fun, uniquely Shabbos time. (I can’t imagine doing something like that during the week, can you?)
Chana and I enjoy that hour when the weather lets us have it. Then it is in to the house for lunch, a nap and quiet time. We spend our quiet time reading, talking, laughing, you name it.
But, the day does get long nowadays. Shabbos doesn’t end until almost 9pm now and that is a long day. By the time the clock gets towards 7 o’clock, I tend to get “quiet timed out” and I want to go do something. I can’t read much by this point. Chana and I spent this time just talking and that is nice.
Last Shabbos ended about 8:40 or so. Somewhere around 8 o’clock, I looked around the room and I saw my new “rig.” That’s what I call the new computer I bought. I needed a new computer for all the live streaming I was doing. Between the Facebook Live services (6:45 afternoon service on Sunday through Thursday and 6:30 sing-a-licious Kabbolas Shabbos on Friday) and the Zoom meetings (I am averaging about 4-6 of those a week between the learning, my private studies with my learning partner and work), the old computer I was working with just couldn’t cut the mustard anymore. Anyway, I saw the computer and a flash bulb went off in my head. Why couldn’t I use that to come a little closer to our grandchildren?
I turned to Chana and asked if we had any children’s story books in the house, either that we had bought for the grandchildren and not yet given or left over from when Yitzchak was young. She answered that we did indeed have some picture stories. I was excited. I suggested that, after Shabbos, we video record us reading stories to the grandchildren. We could send them the videos and they could see us as often as they wanted.
Well, that’s what we did. As soon as Shabbos was over, I recited the Maariv service (no singing this time), counted Sefira, said Havdalah and immediately went to work. Let me tell you, Chana and I had a total blast and the kids have taken to them like fish to water. To date, we have recorded two Mercer Mayer books and I have begun reading Charlotte’s Web to them one chapter at a time. We had some technical issues to work out (such as having to upload the videos to YouTube to share them because they were too big to email) but everything is going along swimmingly. Chana and I are having fun and we have figured out a new way to connect with our kids and grandchildren.
During these times of physical isolation, we have to stay connected in every way we can. Today’s technology is just awesome and allows us to do so many things. I know that not all of us are technologically savvy but having a smartphone gives us an entire audio/visual studio in the palm of our hands. In our case, the new idea has not only allowed our grandchildren the opportunity to see us, hear our voices and connect with us, it has given Chana and I a new outlet which has added much to our lives.
Make no mistake, we will get through this dark time. All we need to do is look for the opportunities we have to not only make it through each day but to make each day purposeful and meaningful. We do not have to be alone, we can be with others even if they are only at the other end of an Internet based tether.
Hang in there. This night will end and Chana and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you in shul in the near future.