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Danita and Michel Aziza


Sunset, Netanya Beach
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

 
LESSON #21: TAKE A BREAK :IT'S THE LAW

AZIZA' S DECIDE NOT TO DRIVE ON SHABBAT

By Danita Aziza, January 12, 2011

Life can be utterly exhausting.  I’m not sure what it is, but I’m a pretty high energy individual and rarely feel the need for a nap or to put my feet up, but I must say that I’m tired and it doesn’t just stem from the revolving door of visitors that we have been blessed with in the past few months.

The day starts early.  We’re up well before 6:00 a.m. to drive Benji to the train for his volunteer job with Magen David Adom .  Michel tries to walk the dog for close to an hour before he goes to work and I’m up early arranging and fussing before I’m off to Ulpan in Raanaana.  There is all the normal day-to-day “toing” and “froing” that anyone living in this century encounters with kids, pets, employment, chores, and so forth. In Israel, however, there seems to be so much more that you try to pack into a day here that makes the population a little more rushed and fatigued than the average Prairie dweller.  Perhaps more traffic to battle, more information to absorb and of course, a few more things to fear, all contribute to the mounting fatigue that reaches a crescendo by late afternoon on Thursday.

It may well be the busyness of life here that necessitates one taking a break come sundown on Friday.  Since I was in second year university and chummed with friends who observed Shabbat I’ve been on a very slow path to observing more of the laws associated with Shabbat, all the while picking and choosing what suited me best and then Michel after we met and then of course, the kids when they came into being.  Friday night dinners together with the family and friends has always been a ritual in our home and attending Synagogue on Saturday was pretty much routine for me whether I be living in Toronto or Winnipeg.  I don’t even remember how long it’s been since I choose to not watch television or listen to music and the kids always have known that while I may have driven them to friends on Saturday, the radio was never turned on in the car, many times not without opposition especially when it involved more than a 10 minute ride.

Everyone in my family was convinced that when I gave up talking on the phone on Saturday about two years ago now, it was more for my own convenience rather than concern for Sabbath observance.  Actually giving up phone conversation was just one more step I decided to take towards keeping the seventh day unlike any other day of the week and phone conversation for me has always been very much a part of my daily routine.  My Grandma, may she rest in peace, always thought I’d do well as a telephone operator back in the days when a person rather than a computer answered when you stuck the top of your pen or pencil in the rotary dial and rang 411 or 0.

So as I sat in the makeshift Chabad Lubavitch synagogue in the open area of the shopping mall in Even Yehuda this past Yom Kippur, I took stock of all of the things that I have done in my going on thirty-year quest toward keeping Shabbat.  As I debated with myself and tried to rationalize the fact that I am able to set the day apart by still driving when necessary, turning on lights, making morning coffee or deviating from normal abstinences when away on vacation, something was not sitting quite right with me.
As I glanced at the translation of the Haftorah reading on the holiest day of the year, lo and behold was a paragraph that leaped out at me from the page. “ …”if you proclaim the Sabbath a delight…and you honor it by not engaging in your own ways, from seeking your needs….then you shall be granted pleasure with Hashem…”  With no food in my system, I was able to digest these words and contemplate just how important Shabbat observance is to the core of Jewish being.  Trying hard to recite quietly to myself each of the 10 commandments, it suddenly dawned on me that in actuality I did adhere to each one of them with the exception of the keeping of Shabbat. 

When I discussed my revelation with Michel at the end of the day, he took me by complete surprise by suggesting that we give up driving on Shabbat.  The implications terrified me and I spent the better part of the week lying awake thinking of all that we would be giving up by not driving on Friday night and Saturday. Seeing our friends and getting the kids to their friends’ houses, our ritual Saturday walks along the beach in Netanya, hikes in remote areas of the country, and the cessation of looking for the “right synagogue” in nearby communities.  Despite the all of our own initial uncertainty and outcry from the children, we took the plunge. 

It has now been almost four months and with the exception of one minor deviation for somewhat good reason, we have been “drive free” on Shabbat.  The experience has actually been enlightening, positive and extremely relaxing.  With nowhere to run to, we enjoy our time together as a family and look forward to having people come to us for Shabbat dinner. Michel and I haven’t imposed our observance on the kids so the elders are free to come and go as they please, but generally they choose to be at home enjoying the day, taking time to chat and discuss and unwind from the chaos that ensues in our house throughout the week.  We have the time to read, study, walk, nap, appreciate and visit together that just doesn’t happen at any other time and instead thinking of what we have given up by not driving, I’m beginning to see all of the gains.

Being in the “gray zone”, like we are, in Israel isn’t all that easy.  Most of the population here falls on the right or the left of the religious spectrum.  You are generally either orthodox, modern orthodox or secular and there isn’t much in between.  Many of our secular friends here find it difficult to figure us out, but they have, I think, developed an appreciation and acceptance for our decision and have accommodated changing get togethers and trips in the country to allow us to observe Shabbat in a manner that is right for us.  Many do say, however, that once Benji is in the army and we have the opportunity to visit him on base on Shabbat like so many other parents do, we will not hesitate to jump in the car with schnitzel and his favorite desserts and take the drive to wherever he may be. 

I can’t foresee what our choice will be down the road and I’m not proclaiming that I will never drive again on Shabbat, but for right now, it has simplified our life to some extent, provided a necessary time out from the technology that overwhelms us and added another dimension of meaning and Jewish observance that wasn’t present before.  We still don’t do it all, but we do take a break and if that’s the law then I’m grateful.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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