Skipping Shabbos and Drawing Lines

The night before, I was desperately clutching an umbrella against a roaring rain, making my long watery way to Friday night services. The rain was falling so thick and fast and loud that I couldn’t help but holler into the storm; my clothes, meanwhile, were hopelessly soaked. It would have been normal and completely understandable to turn around or to wait. I kept going.

The sky was still just a little bit blue, and I rationalized my use of an umbrella—which isn’t used on Shabbos by certain traditional Jews, no matter the weather. “It’s not really Shabbos yet,” I thought. I thought about buying a poncho sometime that would cover me from head to foot. I thought about whether or not I believed I was actually breaking Shabbos (if it was already Shabbos) by using an umbrella… and if I would actually walk thirty minutes to shul in the crazy rain if I couldn’t use one.

Most of all, I was confused and a little amused by my determination to play by the familiar rules when I knew that the following day I would break all of them. Would I use technology? Check. Spend money? Check. Travel to another city with my best friend who would be coming from out of town so that I could spend as much time as possible with her? Check, check, check.

When I finally got to shul—a group I had never been to, hosted by a rabbi I had never met—the Friday night prayers and songs were a relief not so much from the rain, but from my own racing thoughts. My skirt dripped onto the wooden floor; I took off my soggy shoes and wet glasses, opened my prayerbook, found the right page, and began to sing.

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