by Katy Sorsher Smith
I love Shabbat! Even if I don’t get the rest I need during this day, being a mother of young children and all, this day is very special. In fact, even the preparations for this day are a unique and special thing.
There’s just something about Friday mornings in Israel that cannot be fully explained to the outside world. It has to be experienced.
The dozens of coffee shops are super busy, as people of all walks of life meet friends for their morning cup o’ Joe. Israelis love coffee, so Friday mornings, when a lot of people have the day off, is the perfect way to end the week.
But this blog is about a different aspect of Friday morning – getting everything ready for a Shabbat dinner!
In the world of super stores where you can buy everything imaginable – from groceries to furniture and electronics to sports gear, it’s so refreshing to get out of your apartment on a Friday morning, with anticipation of going to small, privately-owned specialty stores for your unique pre-planned pre-Shabbat grocery run.
At home I make my plan of action, carefully processing my shopping list and creating the journey route. Depending on my mood, I will choose either the shortest way – especially if I’m planning a fancy meal – or the one where I can bump into the most people… which is the route I usually end up taking regardless of the meal planned.
First, for things like milk and butter I usually visit the main grocery store, where I stand in line – especially on Fridays – for a while, talking away with fellow shoppers about this and that.
Then, there will be the local bakery. Since my parents have lived in the same place for a while, we have our favorite one by now, out of the half a dozen available in the area. Oh, the smells of the sweet challah bread fresh out of the oven… It’s especially amazing when one of the store workers with an oven mitten offers me the one of my choice because they are still too hot to touch… and the scores of other pastries each with an amazing aroma make it almost irresistible to get out of there just with what’s on my shopping list… I rarely do!
Then, I might visit the fish or the meat store, where I can get fresh fish of any imaginable kind or meat of the cut you desire. The possibilities are endless and if you’re a cook like me who loves experimenting on your family, delicacies are always available… for a price, of course… The butcher or the fish shop owner will definitely ask about my family, and make sure he catches up on my life affairs, while nonchalantly giving me cooking advice.
I then proceed to the local veggie & fruit market, where, by now, they probably received fresh merchandise just in time for Shabbat shoppers. While getting my hands on the best produce, I exchange a word or two about the weather or the latest news with the workers and the owner, who will definitely be at the registry. (Now try that at your neighborhood Target store…)
On my trip, I’ll probably run into some friends, neighbors, extended family members… all of whom will engage in small talk or at least in a smile exchange, which definitely elevates my mood to even higher levels of happiness. (It is, after all, Friday!)
Depending on my to do list, I might stop by one to five other small shops – from the local adaptation of the dollar store to an ice cream shop, etc.
Last but not least on my fancy Shabbat-shopping tour will be the florist… conveniently located between shops right there on the sidewalk with buckets of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling bouquets, each of which bring that special something needed for Shabbat to our table.
I breathe in the buzzing of people around me – hundreds and hundreds of them who are, just like me, trying to get ready for the day of rest. I sometimes just stop and watch the housewives as they hurry around, or the young families as they, in the midst of chaos, are walking with their strollers, window shopping.
As I said, it’s hard to describe the entire scene, and unless you’re there, there’s no chance of grasping the full extent of it. The smells, the sounds, the sights – they are extremely distinct to Fridays (and holiday eves).
You just have to come and experience it for yourself!
But the most drastic change happens around 3pm. Suddenly, the loud sounds of voices and traffic die down… almost instantly. In just a few minutes time, the streets empty of people and most cars. And even though the smells linger for a little after the shops close, you know that soon hundreds of thousands of families in Israel will be gathering around the table, lighting the candles, breaking bread, drinking wine, singing special songs, and thanking God for their families and for this Shabbat.
Though there are a lot of traditions of men associated with Shabbat that I just can’t understand (like the forbidding of carrying an umbrella or forbidding of taking a fly out of your food during Shabbat), the older I get, the more I learn to appreciate the beauty of this day of rest that God created for all mankind (Yeshua said that Shabbat was made “for man” – not “for the Jew.”)
Once the sun sets, the next 24 hours are very special, whether you are religious or not. There will be that quietness of Shabbat morning, the fresh air, birds whose singing you can now hear because there is just no traffic… if you live near a synagogue you might even catch a sound of beautiful prayers… Oh, there are just no words to describe the serenity, the peace and the majesty of it.
Of course, this is just a picture of what’s to come – eternal rest with our Father in heaven… And what a beautiful picture it is!