I thrive on traditions and rituals. When all is broken down, I get really stressed out and generally grumpy.
And then, I went and cancelled Friday night services for this Shabbat throwing my normal pre-Shabbat rituals into a tizzy. Well into the Fourth of July 96-hour weekend, I felt that it would only be proper to do so. Plus, it’s an ideal time to return to some beloved traditions from “the Old Country”.
Shortly after Shula moved out of our home to go to college, my parents became intense Virginia Cavalier fans. They got all the paraphernalia, watched all the football and basketball games, and took interest in all the sports things that they never showed an ounce of interest in before. It was very confusing, and a sign of a big shakeup in the Warren household.
Not much later, another institution reared its face, Friday Evening Happy Hour. At five o’clock pm in the Warren household (and later in the satellite Warren households), the martini glasses come out and are filled with extra dry martinis with several olives. Scotch is acceptable as well. This is, by far, my favorite pre-Shabbat ritual that I got from home, and Shabbat would never be the same again.
(Point of clarification: Single Malt Scotch is always acceptable. Even not on Shabbat.)
While I am married to my rituals, I’m also ok with change. When I went to rabbinical school, my Shabbat countdown matured with my roommates.
None of us had synagogues nor did we lead services, so Friday afternoons became times of intense preparation. Part of it was preparation to entertain intelligent Jewish women from JTS and Barnard (and wherever Sara Beth Berman used to go to school) – but there was within our little group a truly beautiful ritual exercised every week on Friday afternoons.
On those Shabbatot in New York, Joshua Sherwin (also a Navy Chaplain, currently at the Naval Academy) would provided unending entertainment and served as sous-chef in the frying process (a very dangerous and important task). Rafi Lehman z”l would add the proper mood music from our holy brother Reb Shlomo, the Moshav Band, etc., and try convinced me that cleaning might make the apartment a nicer place. Sometimes we would get a nice piece of chassidische learning from an obscure rebbe from somewhere in Ukraine. I still don’t understand half the stuff he would talk about. But I’m pretty sure the chiddush from every week was that the preparation for the ritual has the ability to be just as holy or even holier than the ritual itself.
Fast forward to now. The sun is going down on a toasty hot Okinawa, and I really didn’t have that much to do today. Right after I post this, I’m going to walk out to my porch to watch the sun set. Preparations finished, I will lift my glass (of bourbon) and toast my first roommates at the Jewish Theological Seminary who changed my experience of Shabbat by making the pre-Shabbat ritual fuller. And another toast to my roommate the next year - Rabbi Daniel Isaac Dorsch – who this week celebrated the brit milah of his first born in Livingston NJ! While he augmented my Shabbat in many ways, I still have him beat because I helped him get enough courage to ask Amy out. Mazal Tov and welcome to the world, Zev!
Shabbat Shalom. L’chaim!