A friend, LA, recently asked me what I mean/understand when I say/hear Shabbat Shalom.
I was confused by the question. I had never thought that much about it. It is simply a salutation, like "hello" or "goodbye".
Another friend, GA, starts saying Shabbat Shalom early in the week. When questioned about it, he explains that we are awaiting Shabbat all week long. Though he gets curious looks, he cheerily continues to wish all a Shabbat Shalom.
I always liked this idea, that, from the outset, our week is centered around Shabbat.
I will often wish someone a "Shabbat Shalom" as early as Wednesday (occasionally even earlier) if I think I won't see them again before Shabbat. I get some of the same strange looks as GA, but I don't mind.
All week, I look forward to Shabbat.
On Shabbat, everything slows down and I get to spend real time with my family. We have proper meals, all together, with good conversations. No phone interuptions, no computer distractions, no outside obligations. Just good, quality family time.
And something extra.
LA wondered if, as a religious person, I mean something more meaningful when I say "Shabbat Shalom."
On the surface, I certainly don't.
But maybe my friend is intuiting something that I am missing.
I would love for everyone to experience the magic of Shabbat that I experience. Of course, everyone experiences that magic in their own way. But the unique beauty of Shabbat, that elusive magical element, that is a gift. And I would love for others to have that gift.
And maybe that is the meaning of "Shabbat Shalom" -- that we are wishing each other that magical gift of Shabbat.
On the other hand, I think it's great that we don't think about it too much. If it was identified as a religious greeting, perhaps non-religious people would take offense. In this country, where everyone is hypersensitive about religious coersion, anything can happen. So, I'm quite happy that everyone says Shabbat Shalom to each other as a matter of course.
Still, there is an element to Shabbat that makes it more than just a "day off".
Shabbat is more than just a "Sunday".
There is a mystical element that pervades the day. It is tangible, even as it is unidentifiable. And it disappears when Shabbat is over.
This motza"sh (Saturday night), as we were eating supper, A asked if there was soup left over from Shabbat. There was, and everyone wanted some. "It was really delicious," Y commented, then added "but it won't taste as good as before". I asked her "why?" She answered "Because it won't have the special taste of Shabbat".
That's it then, isn't it?
That's what we mean when we say "Shabbat Shalom".
We wish each other "that special taste of Shabbat."
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,