Oasis

by | Oct 14, 2023

Day 8 – Shabbat

Friday night. Shabbat. Shortly before setting my phone up for the special shabbat-during-war mode, I noticed that people were suggesting lighting an extra two candles for the women who were in captivity or serving on the front lines, who wouldn’t be able to light candles for themselves. I decided not only to do that but to also light a yahrzeit candle.

A yahrzeit candle is a long burning (they come in 24, 48 and 72 hour varieties) candle which we light when someone close to us has died. We also light them on the anniversary of their death and on 4 biblical holidays when the prayer service includes a section specifically for those who have lost a close relative.

I’ve decided I’m going to keep a yahrzeit candle burning until all of the hostages are released. There was a meme going around social media that said if you are a Jew who lives outside of Israel and someone asks if you have any family in Israel, the correct response is, “yes, seven million of them.” When push comes to shove, and it often does in families, we are all family.

Before lighting my candles, I light the yahrzeit candle. And the tears start to flow. I light my shabbat candles, but as I light the two candles for the other women, I just can’t make the blessing. I have no words left, only tears. It’s hard being a person who can easily feel what others might be feeling in a situation. I guess the positive side of that is that I can rest assured I’m not a psychopath. I silently ask God to watch over my son and my SIL, and the women for whom I am lighting shabbat candles for, and…the…yahrzeit…candle. I’m done.

My husband is at prayer services and will be at least an hour. For tonight’s meal we are alone, and I’m okay with that – I need to decompress. My phone is “on” but it is in the bedroom with the ringer turned up in case there’s an emergency call I need to answer. But it’s in the bedroom, so for now I am without screens, without social media, without the news, without the constant updates and without the buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz that has punctuated my life for the past week. Has it really ONLY been a week? As my daughter said, this week has been the longest two months of my life.

I decide to take out a novel I’ve been reading. During the week I don’t really have time to indulge in fiction, but on Shabbat I allow myself that little indulgence. As it turns out I am able to lose myself a little in the book and for the next hour I am not thinking about war.

Shabbat dinner when it’s just the two of us is quiet. We talk and we bounce thoughts off each other. There’s actually not that much to say that hasn’t been said during the past 7 days. After dinner and a little more reading we head off to bed. And I sleep.

This is the first full night’s sleep I’ve gotten this week and I wake up feeling somewhat refreshed. After coffee and a short but heart-felt conversation with the One who is overseeing this mess, I start getting ready for lunch. It’s actually more like brunch here in Israel. The Shabbat morning prayer service is over around 10:30, so lunch is usually around 11. Today it goes a little longer because they’ve added in the recitation of some Psalms for all our people who are in harm’s way – soldiers and civilians alike. We are having my DIL and kids for lunch. My daughter is eating at her in-laws, who also live in the same village we do. As I’m writing this I’m actually a little sad that my other two sets of kids don’t live here, too. I know it’s old-fashioned – older than I am, in truth, but I love the idea of us all being physically so close. I can’t judge, though, when my husband and I got married, we moved a few thousand miles away from our parents. This is the normal way of things nowadays. Adult children make adult choices and sometimes (often) that means moving away.

Anyway, neither of the girls wanted to eat alone while their husbands were away so they did Friday night dinner together and then each with their in-laws for lunch. As it turns out, my SIL got a last-minute pass to come home for Shabbat, which was good for the family, but I can’t imagine it will be easy to go back on Sunday morning.

Lunch is beautifully loud and chaotic. Grandchildren are life. Today, though, they are having a hard time. Not having their father around for a week is hard enough, but this isn’t the first time they’ve had to deal with that – reservists have to go on exercises once a year – but this week is different. There’s just something in the air. I want to call it stress, but maybe it’s all that audio “smog” from the planes, rockets and bombs combined with the emotional “smog” of the situation. We all feel it, even when we don’t think about it. Even when we don’t have sirens. Everyone is on edge. Adults manage to keep it mostly inside, for better or worse. But kids – they reflect it all back to us.

After a loud and chaotic lunch, my DIL takes the kids home and I try to take a nap. I end up reading for a few hours and only nap for about 15 minutes, but that’s fine. Any longer and I’ll have trouble sleeping tonight, and I do not need that.

For the evening meal, my daughter and her family come to us. Friday night and Shabbat morning meals are fancy – they are supposed to be a festive meal (think Thanksgiving dinner – yes, every. Single. Week.) But the evening meal is less formal. I reheat some leftovers from the other two meals on the warming tray (we don’t cook on shabbat), and cut up some veggies. The mood is somber. I want to talk. I need to talk. Probably, I talk too much and I know it was too much for SIL. It was probably too much for the little ears listening as well, but it’s so easy for me to talk with my daughter. Still, I realize after they leave that I really shouldn’t have talked quite so much.

As shabbat is ending, I am grateful for the 25 hour respite. Shabbat is 25 hours, not 24 because there’s about an hour between when the sun starts to set and when it is completely set, so we keep that hour as shabbat on both sides of the day. It’s often referred to as an “island in time”. This week it was an oasis. I needed it, and am grateful for it.

After Shabbat I check my phone to see what’s been going on. My sister-in-law has messaged the family asking for a check-in. It’s so interesting how a war designed to destroy us has managed to bring our nation together as well as families. I’ve spent more time talking to my sisters-in-law in the US this week than in the past 10 years combined. It’s terrible circumstances, but feels nice to be connected to family.

My son, who is in the north, updates us that Hezbollah attacked Israel from Lebanon during the day and his unit took care of the problem. His shabbat was not quiet. But I am glad to hear he’s fine. He also informs us that the military is preparing for an extended war (not one of those six-day things of the past) and so they are working on rotating the guys out so they can be with their families every other week or so. He says he may be able to come home on Tuesday. I can’t wait to hug him.

Written by Penina Taylor

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On my Instagram feed there’s a famous speaker and author that I really respect speaking out about what’s happened here. Amazing. I knew this guy was great. But then I make the real mistake. I look at the comments. NEVER ever look at the comments. I know this. I know there’s a lot of awful people out there.

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I managed to get a few hour’s sleep. Not enough to function well, though. I’ve got to get more work done or this month is going to be hard in more ways than one. I check Facebook again to see if I can mark myself safe in the crisis – this will help lower the amount of people asking me if we are okay. I appreciate the concern, and it’s heartening knowing that so many people care about my welfare, but it’s hard to answer everyone. Facebook still hasn’t listed the war as an option and I am livid. There are ways of doing this that don’t have to be about “taking sides”, but ignoring the situation is abominable. Nope, still no option.

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I get up, get dressed, as usual. I get my coffee and sit down to work. One website…just one…no, I need to work. I try to work. But websites and LinkedIn profiles seem so trivial at the moment. I am so distracted.

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