"Now how am I going to return the shirt?" queried my eldest daughter, holding up the beautiful white shirt, belonging to her friend from down the block, and looking out the window at the pouring rain.
Well, the choices seemed pretty clear to me. Either she would have to wait to return the shirt, or she would get wet (horror of horrors!).
It was minutes before Shabbat, and there was no time to drive her.
I thought she would choose to wait, but she did not.
Ten minutes later she burst through the door.
"That was fun!" she exclaimed, shirking off her rain slicker.
Her clothes were soaked, but she was smiling, confirming my belief that a walk in the rain is good for the soul. (if you have not read it yet, see one of my favorite posts: Playing in the Rain)
I woke up late (10:00) Shabbat (Saturday) morning. By the time I put the food on the plata* (hot plate), it was 10:30, and there was really no point in going to shul (synagogue).
So I hung out with my parents until Y woke up and joined us.
"Why can't we use an umbrella on Shabbat?" She asked, challenging.
(And I thought she had fun walking in the rain!)
This is an excellent question, and one that does not have a simple answer. The prohibition of using umbrellas on Shabbat is not simple and straightforward, and has a strong social element to it. The rabbis don't all agree, on the reasons for the prohibition, and some base their prohibition on social practices ("it is not done, therefore we do not do it"). (for more details, see here)
I tried to explain the reasoning, and arguments, to my daughter, but she challenged me. The halakha did not make sense to her. Perhaps I did not make a convincing argument, because elements of the halakha do not make sense to me.
If Moshe were awake, I would have called in the "reserves." But Moshe was still fast asleep.
So, in order to explain why we do things that do not always make sense, I tried to explain the halakhic (Jewish legal) process, how halakha (Jewish law) evolves over time, who has halakhic authority, and even when advocates of change overstep halakhic boundaries, etc.
I embarked on my explanation, beginning with how our adherance to the halakhic process sustained Judaism for the past 2000 years, giving an overview of modern Orthodoxy, explaining the emergence and downfall of the Reform movement, the emergence and downfall of the Conservative movement, examples of g'dolim (great Rabbis) and how it is their responsibility to evaluate the long term ramifications of halakhic decisions, and examples of changes within modern Orthodoxy (such as the women's tefillah movement**).
Ultimately, I was trying to explain why we, as individuals, can't just decide what to do, on our own, based on what seems logical to us.
"I got it," said Y, suddenly, as I made my final point.
Just like that? Was she really satisfied. I was not sure. Then she summarized in a sentance of two, what I had just spent so much time trying to explain.
She got it.
Just like that.
Without further ado, we segued into a story about Y, when she was a year and a half, and spit up all over a Rav's Shabbat Table.
What was the connection? Well, in our previous discussion, I mentioned an interesting conversation I had with this Rav, about women's tefillah groups. As an aside, I mentioned that I had a funny story to tell about Y and this Rav.
So, of course, as soon as we finished our serious conversation, Y (and A, who had joined us, somewhere along the way), and my mom, wanted to hear the funny story!
So, I told the story, in all its glorious detail!
By the time I finished telling the story, it was really late. Most of our neighbors had finished their Shabbat lunch by then, and we had not even started! We laughed at ourselves, for getting such a late start!
It was a wonderful, relaxed morning, filled with talking, and sharing, and laughing.
I hugged my girls, and we began our day...
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,
* Religous Jews don't cook on Shabbat, so many use a plata (a modified hot plate, with only one setting) to warm up food on Shabbat. Some Jews use a blech for warming food; this is more common in the US. Most Jews in Israel use a plata, or an oven with a special Shabbat setting.
** The women's tefillah movement is still not "mainstream," but it is has been growing steadily for over 30 years. Today, there are women's tefillah groups throughout Israel, and the rest of the world. (see here, for an impressive list of women's tefillah groups worldwide)