Noah Sodie is a student in Adventure Judaisms online Bar Yisrael program. He lives in Bethesda Maryland and completed his studies online, then came to Colorado for his ceremony.
My Shabbat project challenged me to explore six total Shabbat experiences. The first three were each supposed to be different so I could try out new customs and discover what worked best for me. Then there was supposed to be one practice that I would do three more times. The one I chose to continue was no complaining. This turned out to be even more meaningful and helpful than I expected. I had to write about my experiences in a Shabbat log and write what I did and how it connected to Jewish values. Some of the Shabbat experiences I tried were walking the family dogs, going to services at synagogue, and the last one: no complaining.
Usually, my dad walks the dogs on the weekends. For my first Shabbat experience, I decided to walk them so my dad could have a break and sleep in. It felt good to help the dogs and my dad. It was peaceful to be out in nature that early in the morning. It felt productive to get an early start on the day. This was a simple practice but it touched on Jewish values such as kindness to animals, honoring parents as well as connecting to nature.
Back in December, I had the honor of going to my friend’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah reception. My second Shabbat custom that I chose was attending services before the actual ceremony. My friend Josh’s speech was about doing the right thing and being honest to yourself and others. He talked about being blamed for eating something on the counter when he had really seen his dog snatch it off the counter. He talked about how he did not like this and reflected on how it feels to be blamed for something when you didn’t do it. This was one of his reasons to try and look into stuff better to understand the circumstances of the situation and to find out what really happened, even if it’s something that isn’t all that important, such as this. I agree with this.
For my third Shabbat experience, I did no complaining. This turned out to be the most valuable practice. People often complain about minor setbacks when complaining rarely helps anything. Constructive criticism can be ok but that’s than complaining. Complaining is just a way to distract you from your problems. By not complaining, it saves time for actually fixing problems. This was easier than I thought. I felt good not focusing on the negative parts of my day and focusing on the positive. This is a great thing to do for Shabbat. And thinking positive is relaxing.
Toward the end, I didn’t even have to think about not complaining. It was becoming a habit. This is definitely something I want to continue. This skill of not complaining is helpful not just on Shabbat, but on non-Shabbat days as well. It helps you see the bright side and to keep your focus on how to fix things.
It also helped me feel that Shabbat was a special part of the week because not complaining, at least for me, was unique and different than the rest of the week.
I learned that Shabbat doesn’t have to be about saying prayers or lighting candles or other traditional rituals. I discovered a ritual that was meaningful to me. There can be other rituals out there that I haven’t discovered yet that could be meaningful as well.
I think Shabbat is very important as it helps you recover from the week and get ready for the next. I do my schoolwork during the week, and on Shabbat, I rest and try to improve myself by taking it easy. My Shabbat practice of not complaining made my Shabbat peaceful. It helped me to pause and reflect.
I will try to keep Shabbat as a special day separate from the rest of the week, whether it’s my practice of not complaining or doing more Shabbat practices like this one.