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by Lawrence Stroll
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

This week’s issue marks the return of Lawrence Stroll’s popular Between Friends column. In case you forgot, this column tracks the e-mail correspondence between two friends. David is twenty-something,single, and non-observant. Ari is thirty-something, married with kids, and a ba’al teshuvah (returnee to traditional Torah observance). The younger friend is at a time in his life when he is looking for “more” (i.e. seeking spiritual growth and personal development) and generally writes to his older friend in search of advice. The older friend tries to provide useful and solid advice by drawing on the Torah portion of that week.

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Dear Ari,

I had a remarkable experience this past week. The rabbi of the synagogue that I casually attend invited me to his house for a Shabbat meal. (That’s NOT the remarkable experience!) The thing that was extraordinary was how relaxed and at peace he and his wife were. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

As I was about to pour myself a glass of wine during the meal, I accidentally knocked my crystal glass on the floor. Needless to say, the glass didn’t survive the fall; and, at that very moment I didn’t think I would either. As I was attempting to get the words out to offer an apology, and expecting a stern look of anger from the host or hostess, the rabbi’s wife simply said, "Don’t worry, accidents sometimes happen. Let me get you another glass." And she was not being sarcastic or insincere. I should also mention that they did not seem like folks of tremendous means and I was confident they didn’t appreciate their new loss.

The evening went on and you could easily tell that the incident was as much out of mind as it was out of sight. Consumed with guilt as I was leaving, I once again offered an apology and offered to replace the glass, whereupon the rabbi thanked me for my consideration and assured me that it should not bother me whatsoever. As I went home that night, I couldn’t help but think how beautiful it must be to not get your feathers ruffled over life’s trivialities. How in the world can human beings possibly cultivate such a sense of serenity?

Sincerely, Amazed

 

Dear David, I wholly concur—that is definitely a remarkable experience! Your rabbi and his wife sound like truly wonderful people. As to your question regarding how they became that way, I think that question is better directed to them. However, I am—as usual—willing to venture a guess, especially in light of this week’s Torah portion.

In directing Moses to speak to the Jewish people regarding the idea of keeping, preserving, and honoring the Shabbat, Hashem specifically states that Shabbat is a day of complete rest. It is noteworthy that we are not simply told that it is a "day of rest," but one of "complete rest." Rashi understands this to mean that the Sabbath is to be a restful rest rather than a haphazard rest. The Be’er Yitzchok elucidates Rashi’s comments and explains that not only is one supposed to take a physical rest on Shabbat, but one should also rest from the typical worries of the weekdays. This may very well explain your remarkable experience.

Typically when we think of Shabbat observance, we think of all those activities that we are instructed to refrain from doing. Sadly, what many people neglect is how we are supposed to conduct our emotions and states of mind on this holy day. And, notwithstanding the severe importance of observing Shabbat in the former manner, if we really want to experience the full joy of Shabbat, we need to also focus on the "inner Shabbat"—the one that takes place in our heads and our hearts. Clearly, it would seem that your rabbi and his wife have fully embraced the meaning of a "complete" day of rest.

It is interesting to note that Shabbat is one of the most effective vehicles that a Jew can use to connect with G-d. Used properly, Shabbat can serve as a powerful superconductor for unleashing one’s unlimited reservoir of spiritual energy. With a little work, the serenity that one experiences on Shabbat can be carried into the following week. And, with some practice, can even last until the next Shabbat. It has been said that more than the Jew has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jew. You should continue to be blessed by having many more peaceful Shabbat experiences until this serenity that you so admire in others becomes something that you carry within yourself.

Sincerely, Wishing You a "Peace" of the Action

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Lawrence Stroll is a financial planner and Family Wealth Counselor with Geller Financial Advisors in Atlanta.

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