THIS is how you spend Shabbat?!

Well, not normally, no.. er… wait a minute! Why am I making excuses? This is MY blog!

Yeah, well, I decided long ago that Shabbat observance for me was not going to look like the traditional, Orthodox version. The key elements in the concept and point of Shabbat for me were the separation from the rest of the week and the relaxation and rest. Thus, I decided that if that meant getting away from the grind of wherever I happen to be living and working/going to school by driving out of town or otherwise distancing myself from my daily surroundings, so be it.

When I first moved to San Diego for grad school in 1999, I made a conscious decision to not engage in schoolwork on Shabbat. I knew I’d be plenty busy with it the rest of the week, and I wanted to establish a set time for a break, so I took the time our tradition has already set aside. This served me very well, and was indeed extremely relaxing, for most of my grad school career. Then came time to prepare for the comprehensive (final) exams for my program, and the discovery that they are administered over a weekend. Normally, you are provided with the exam questions on Friday and turn them in on Monday.

I was so firmly entrenched in my Shabbat habit by this point, that I was fairly comfortable speaking with my faculty and asking for an accommodation based on my religious observance. My position was aided by the presence of a fellow student who was even more explicitly observant than I (Avraham [I’ll never get used to calling you Greg, dude] wears a kippah full time, was a first-rate study partner and remains a good friend, and would find it quite amusing that I’m blogging about this after sundown on Friday, even though he won’t be reading it until after sundown Saturday night. One of the brightest, most open-minded people I know.) and required the same accommodation. So it was that my esteemed teachers and department administrators agreed to provide me and Avraham with the comp exam materials on Sunday and accept them, without penalty, on Wednesday. And yes, we both passed.

And so it is that we hosted Shabbat dinner tonight, with Jenn’s parents and sister and my mom, celebrating Jenn’s birthday, enjoying our daughter’s company while she was up, then sat around talking and laughing with everyone, and eventually wound up flipping open the laptops, searching for stuff on the interwebs and finally getting around to making good on this commitment to post every day for a month.

I love saying Shabbat shalom – it’s a greeting that encompasses so much, so compactly (like many words and phrases in Hebrew). So let’s leave it at that: have a peaceful, restful, happy Shabbat. Shabbat shalom!



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