Being stuck in revision is the very reason I need Shabbat

May 11, 2016 11:54

Friday evening rolled around and I was sitting in a corner of the library making notes on the performance history of Othello. At one point I checked my phone to see if I could justify turning in yet. It was only half seven, so the answer was no. It was still light outside.

Then I realised that, if I wanted, I could run to my room and change, and then cycle over to shul in time for Kabbalat Shabbat. I only had forty-five minutes but that was enough. It was enough time for me to choose to have a proper Shabbat, to lay off revision for twenty-five hours and not feel guilty, to go to JSoc and appreciate a part of my life which I’ve sort of left behind.

I used to really love Shabbat. It was something I looked forward to, and I’d get home from school on a Friday and have a shower and walk to shul, whatever the weather. I used to feel calm sitting at the back of the service, singing or listening, alone or with family or friends. When I was about seventeen I had a white sundress that I would wear in all seasons, and my brother had these strange white pyjamas, and we probably looked like idiots but we were doing it for a reason and we were happy about it. Kabbalat Shabbat used to be something routine and important. It’s not anymore.

I sat in the library and thought about this, and then I put my head back down and carried on making notes. Partly it was because I was too lazy and couldn’t bear the idea of the rush and scramble of getting to shul (I’d been in my pyjamas all day and I also wasn’t exactly clean). Partly it was because I don’t particularly like non-egalitarian minyanim, and the egalitarian service would have long since finished by the time I would even have set off. Partly it was because I couldn’t bear the idea of having a meal, Friday night though it might be, surrounded by excitable, shouting students. I can do loud but only on my own terms, and the noise of JSoc always seems to get to me.

But mostly it was because I felt guilty about revision. Why should I, I thought, close my books now just because there’s a valid excuse available? Last term I didn’t go to Friday nights, so how can I justify it now, when I’m looking for a reason to get out of the library? It would have felt disingenuous, as though I were using Shabbat as a get-out clause.

The thing is, though, isn’t that sort of what Shabbat is? Isn’t it meant to be the get-out clause that we all need once a week, an excuse to stop doing the miserable things that we haven’t been able to escape? What is Shabbat if not an obligatory wind-down? My being stuck in revision is the very reason I need Shabbat.

I didn’t think of that until a couple of days later, though, by which point another Shabbat had passed me by. Maybe this week I’ll make myself close the books and the laptop, and get over to the shul, and eat dinner with my brother. But, then again, my first exam is in ten days. I think I’ll probably be more relaxed in the library than out of it.

Noa Gendler is a final-year student at the University of Cambridge, studying English Literature. Before that she attended North London Collegiate School. She is a seasoned Limmudnik and is involved in Marom, the Masorti young adult community.

May 11, 2016 11:54

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