Sandy Taradash: What Do Shabbat and New Year’s Resolutions Have in Common?

Sandy Taradash
Sandy Taradash

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions as they usually are the same each year: diet, exercise, eat less sugar. Their boringness usually ends up at the bottom of my post-it note pile as my goal each day is to eliminate the post-its that sit in front of my keyboard and silently scream at me telling me what I need accomplished and what’s left on the to-do list! My post-its keep me in line without the sound of verbalization or guilt!

I recently read an interesting article that talked about rewording New Year’s Resolutions to your New Year’s Intentions, which I believe, gives you the leeway to forgive yourself if you do not follow through because your intentions are good! We all have so much to do in our daily lives and picking priorities is always a difficult decision, so allowing ourselves to live with more attention to our intentions keeps failure at a distance and our intentions mindful of the here and now.

Within this article was good advice about slowing down, paying more attention to now, not getting caught up in the minutia of our lives, not letting important moments pass you by, rather than getting upset with someone embrace them and show compassion to each other as to what upset you, and what was most important to me, when anxiety takes over STOP and BREATHE!

So here is where Shabbat comes in! I pondered about the advice to just breeeeeeeeeathe! Something we most often don’t have time for and what does it really do? Well, taking a breath, in-haling and slowing out-haling actually lowers your blood pressure and helps you to focus on your intentions of the moment, taking you away from the anxiety. Ah ha! Isn’t that what Shabbat’s intentions are?

From Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, we are suppose to take a time-out, in-hale all that is good and reflect on it, out-hale all that is not important, focus on those we love and give them our time and attention, rest our mind and body from the past week and concentrate on the intents we have for the coming week. This is Shabbat!

While growing up in East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights/Montebello, I was blessed to live across the street from our Rabbi, whose influence has never left my soul. When my family was struck with several tragic events, his was the first face I saw to help us. But my best memories are all about Shabbos, how on Friday night after we would light Shabbos candles around his family table, I would accompany him, the rebbetzin and their four children to synagogue. We walked the couple of miles, spring, summer, fall and winter. And we would stop at homes along the way and pick up other kids! There could be a dozen or more of us walking to Friday Night Services. It is a cherished and blessed memory.

But while my Father went to work on Saturday, I would watch the Rabbi, in his oh-so comfortable Shabbat garb, after Saturday morning services and his Sabbath lunch, of course, sit in front of the TV while a baseball or football game was on, read, talk to each one of his kids, and often all of us kids would see him take the rebbetzin by the hand and tell us all “be quiet while we have a nap!”

And then at sundown, the Rabbi would come out onto his back porch, which was elevated above all the houses in the neighborhood (like a pulpit) and put his fingers to his mouth (like a shofar) and whistle loudly calling all of us in for Havdalah. Once again, we were around his kitchen table while he performed the blessing and put out the Havdalah candle. At this short weekly ceremony, you could count the non-Jewish kids who participated as they were all offered the ceremonial wine!!

To this day, and it took me years to realize why I needed the weekends to be different, I don’t clean house or wash clothes on Saturday, when I went back to college as an adult I never did homework on Saturday, and as silly as it sounds, I even drive different routes on the weekends so it doesn’t feel like I’m going to work! I do different activities and routines on Saturdays.

I was in and out of the Rabbi’s house all of my childhood and Saturday was a very different day of the week. Sunday he was back in his suit and tie and out the door by 8:45am off to the Temple so he could visit each one of our Sunday school classrooms. My take-away: SATURDAY WAS DIFFERENT. We all watched as he gave himself a time to breathe, rejuvenate his mind, body and certainly his soul.

A lesson not taught in the Sunday school classroom or in Confirmation but by example, that is what my childhood Rabbi gave me. And this is my point of intention for the New Year: we should take a breath, focus on those around us and find intent on what kind of example and legacy we want to create while being a role-model.

So how do we as grandparents promote the true meaning of Shabbat to our ever so engaged grand kids? We come up with ideas that eliminate their personal time with screen devices, focus on what other activities may be of interest to them—and that can be a challenge! Maybe share with them stories of our childhood, where we grew up and how times are similar and different, a most embarrassing youthful moment or what got you into trouble as a kid, maybe use the internet to do a family history or find pictures of where grandparents came from. It doesn’t have to be a big involved day’s outing, just the simple notion of conversation and learning about each other. How well do they know us and how well do we know them? Does your grandchild know three facts about you? This is time for leaving your mark, your legacy to them. Shabbat. Simple. A proven special day of the week for thousands of years! Become the person my Rabbi was to me, leave a mind full of loving memories. No oy vay here! THIS is the intention a Baby Boomer Grandparent should have on a post-it note for 2014! May you fill this New Year with good intentions and blessed memories!

PS: While 2014 was approaching, I decided to move out of my comfort zone and read some non-fiction books and I’d like to share two outstanding reads:

The Family, by David Laskin. This tells of a Russian family’s plight from the late 1800s till after the Second World War and how so many of their mishpachah were scattered across the globe. Some were fortunate enough to leave Europe before the Nazi’s took over and go to Palestine and the US. One family member, a seamstress from the Old Country, started the Maidenform Bra Company in New York City and lived the American dream while the European clan perished. Their tale emphasizes the ravage Hitler caused across Europe and especially Poland. We all know the stories but this family’s separation and pain is more than a story, it’s a history belonging to so many.

The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan by Jonathan Kirsch. A fascinating story that is not very familiar to most people but one of pre-World War II’s most important moments. This 17 year old German/Polish refugee takes it upon himself to assassinate a German diplomat in Paris on November 7, 1938, as a sign to Hitler his desperation about the plight against his parents and fellow Jews. He is a dramatic youth, good looking and trying to survive on his own. The Nazi’s use this event to inaugurate its long term plan of terror against the Jews and two days later, the result is Kristallnacht. Was this a lone assassin or Hitler’s idea that Grynszpan was part of a world-wide Jewish conspiracy to start a war between Germany and France? Hitler uses the murder as convenient propaganda against the Jews while countries are being invaded by the Nazis, unspeakable violence is happening in to Jews and Herschel’s plight and trial are woven into this thread of time. Why haven’t we heard more about this? Where’s the HBO movie?


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