Friday Night is Chicken Night
Without a doubt, one of the most special aspects of life as a young, single BT in the Holy City is being able to experience Shabbos each week in so many different homes and with so many beautiful families. The feeling of total spiritual rest that filters into one's soul via the aroma of freshly baked challah, by way of the zemiros, and through the flickering flames of the Shabbos candles is something that cannot be emulated in any other context or setting. And yet… someone who has never tapped into the true essence of Shabbat would not understand what there is to anticipate, or - as a friend of mine once put it – why one would look forward to sitting at a table with middle-aged people for two hours on a Friday night eating chicken!
The true Shabbos sensation is not something that can be learned in a classroom; it's not something that can be downloaded from any website or read in a newspaper. Like all areas of growth in Judaism, it can take much time and effort on one's part to maximise the real potential of this holy day.
I myself haven't always been so smitten with Shabbos. In fact, it wasn't even so long ago that I found out that it includes both Friday night and Saturday. During the early stages of my journey across the rocky straits to flag-waving Orthodoxy, my attitude in many areas of Judaism typified that of countless others who have sailed the same boat - "Ok, I agree with x, y and z but as for p and q - I just don't see the point." Only after having tried out and tested and rationalized and clarified was I able to reach that level of understanding in which everything inevitably comes into focus. This was certainly true of my developing relationship with Shabbos.
The fact that the Torah designates 39 categories of prohibited activity for one day of the week may lead a person with only a superficial knowledge of the laws to feel unnecessarily restricted on Shabbos. Saturday morning shopping trips are no longer an option. Sporting events need to be postponed until Sunday. Driving is out of the question and even picking up the car keys can pose a problem. One must simply strive to identify the aspect of rhyme and reason in such 'restrictions' before being able to unlock the sense of freedom and opportunity with which they are inextricably tied. From that point on, one's Shabbos experience can only progress in leaps and bounds.
Shabbos is my island in time. It's the centre of my week, rather than my 'weak-end.' In the hectic days leading up to Shabbos I longingly await that moment when the match will be struck and the 'Shabbos Queen' in all her serenity and glory will be ushered in; permeating the days following Shabbos is the glow of my extra Shabbos neshama. The tantalizing blend of spices with which the Shabbos chicken is sprinkled is nourishing and strengthening. So come. I invite you to taste it for yourself…
Reprinted with the permission of 'The Princess Diaries.'