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Down the Rabbit Hole: Gifts from a Religious Crisis

“I love Shabbos. I know I’m struggling with the details, but I love the way time spreads like a picnic blanket. I like the meals, I like going to shul, I like having time to nap, to take a walk, to see a friend. I like the community and the camaraderie. I worry about my new habits. I worry that Shabbos will be lost to me.”

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A little over a year ago, much of my life was shifting wildly or was already shattered: my relationship, my living situation, my health—and my religious observance. I had been secretly breaking Shabbos for a while, and finally acknowledged to myself that I was no longer committed to halakha, traditional Jewish law.

And so I gave up halakha, and fell down the rabbit hole.

1.  Secret Shabbos Superpowers – It felt, at first, like I had entered a secret society of superheroes. Want to be in New Jersey for Shabbos dinner and the Upper West Side for Shabbos lunch? With the magic of public transportation I can travel easily from one place to the next! Waiting a long time for a Shabbos guest who is mysteriously missing? Not to fear—the Shabbos guest has secret Shabbos superpowers too, and with the use of text messaging I can find out that she is sick and staying at home!

2. Crying on the Subway – One Friday night, I was on the train coming back from seeing my family. I had recently returned from traveling and my father was about to travel himself; that one evening was my only chance to see him for weeks. I didn’t regret my choice, exactly, but the feeling of not observing Shabbos was as palpable and painful as the feeling of struggling to keep it. I cried on the subway as I realized that there would be no escape from figuring it all out, and finding peace.