This is Shabbos? Adi whispered, gazing at the moonlit
scene in wonder.
Of course, Adi knew what Shabbos was; she'd been keeping
Shabbossim for more than a year before she'd decided to study
in Yerusholayim. She liked the regular routine of the day,
the familiar foods and special songs.
But here on the streets of Yerusholayim, she saw something
that didn't fit into her conceptions of the predictable and
She saw people who seemed to be part of Shabbos itself.
As she followed Bobbie, her South African dorm mate, to their
host family for the Friday night meal, Adi was transfixed by
the magical scene unfolding before her eyes. Women and
children splashed color and chatter up and down the winding
street. Teenagers strolled seven and eight abreast, chatting
and pushing baby carriages. Mothers huddled on sidewalk
benches, keeping an eye on their toddlers playing in the
street. There were no cars, buses, traffic noise or anything
else, for that matter. This was unlike any Shabbos Adi had
She was captivated. The next Friday night, Adi rushed out to
the darkening street to again witness the easygoing parade of
adults and children. Here she could put her finger on the
Shabbos in a way that she could never do back home.
And yet... what was she missing? Adi felt like an outsider.
She only watched the scene; she couldn't recreate the
feelings in her own heart. When the siren rang to signal the
time for candlelighting, she hurriedly lit her candles and
felt the total cessation of work hit her with a thud. Why did
everyone else come out so relaxed and radiant?
Of course, her teachers would know. Adi waited for her
chumash rabbi after class one day and asked the
question that burned in her mind all week, "How do you
Rabbi Winkler, a sprightly man with wire-rimmed eyeglasses
and a ready smile, answered her question with a question:
"How do you see? With your eyes. How do you hear? With your
ears. How do you taste? With your tongue. And how do you
experience kedusha? With your neshoma. Hashem
gave us five senses to experience the physical world. Your
neshoma, your `sixth sense,' will help you experience
the world of the spirit, which is Shabbos."
Adi liked his answer; it fit in with all the other new ideas
she was learning at the seminary. But the next Shabbos, she
didn't know exactly how to apply it. In frustration, she
watched, without feeling the elusive aura that wove an
invisible net around the other women and children. What was
"What is Shabbos?" she asked Rebbetzin Ornstein, who taught
Jewish philosophy on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
"Ah, Shabbos," the rebbetzin replied with a twinkle in her
eye. "Shabbos is the day we build our personal relationship
with Hashem. The whole week we're busy with so many other
details, but on Shabbos we put all that behind us. All the
halochos of the day help us to relax so we can spend
lots of time with Hashem and with ourselves."
Adi liked that explanation also, but her teacher's words fell
short on Shabbos, too. Somehow, everyone else knew how to
link the familiar routines of the day with its intangible
kedusha. What was the key?
Her dorm mates noticed her quandary. "Is something bothering
you, Adi?" Bobbie asked when the girls gathered for a late
Adi sighed. "It's Shabbos," she said. "How am I ever going to
feel it as well as keep it?"
Her friends nodded sympathetically. "I wish I could help you,
but I don't know enough yet to give you the right answer,"
"You know who might be able to understand where you're coming
from?" Lisa suggested. "Mrs. Chapman. She's my novi
tutor, but we often spend time talking about other things,
too. I've learned a lot from her."
"Mrs. Chapman?" Bobbie exclaimed. "She doesn't even have
children yet, though I heard she lights a whole house full of
Shabbos candles. How could she understand what Adi's looking
Adi glanced at Lisa. "Ask her," Lisa encouraged. "Maybe
she'll have the answer you're looking for."
When Adi asked her, Mrs. Chapman looked thoughtful, and then
pleased. "Why don't you come by my apartment at ten o'clock
Friday morning?" she suggested. "We can talk then." As the
clock chimed the tenth hour, Adi was ushered into the bright,
white foyer of Mrs. Chapman's apartment. She curiously eyed
her surroundings. The foyer, wallpapered with a pale rose-
and-trellis pattern, was immaculately clean. A corner table
draped with a white lace doily artfully displayed small
pictures in gilt frames. Through a doorway, Adi spied the
dining room, its table neatly spread with a white tablecloth
and sparkling tableware. A shelf jutting out from behind the
door held an array of silver candlesticks. Adi remembered
what Bobbie had said about Mrs. Chapman's many candles. She
"Come, let's sit in my kitchen," the tutor said pleasantly.
"The day is short and there's still much to do. I'll work
while we talk."
It looked like everything was already done, but Adi politely
refrained from saying so as she followed Mrs. Chapman into
the kitchen and took a seat at the table by the window.
Compared to the spaciousness of the foyer and dining room,
the kitchen reminded her of a walk-in closet. A short strip
of countertop topped by cream-colored formica cabinets shone
with cleanliness and order.
"So what would you like to talk about?" Mrs. Chapman asked as
she began to peel potatoes into a large pot.
Adi cleared her throat and looked out the window. "Well, you
know, I'm having a hard time relating to Shabbos," she began.
She glanced sideways at Mrs. Chapman to gauge her
Mrs. Chapman's placid expression didn't waver. "In what way?"
she asked, with the same inflection one might phrase the
question, "Would you like something to eat?"
Adi gathered her courage and continued, "I know all the
halochos and all the things you have to do on
Shabbos," she explained. "I light candles and eat the meals
and bring gifts to the families who host me. But I don't feel
anything. I feel as if everyone around me knows something I
don't. Even the little children look so happy and content.
What am I missing?'
Mrs. Chapman was silent. Adi clenched her teeth and stared
out the window, despairing of getting the answer from this
"Let's imagine that you're expecting a visit from a very
important person," Mrs. Chapman began in a thoughtful tone.
"You're British, right? Let's say the Queen of England sends
you a message that she's coming to visit your home at six
o'clock this evening."
Adi wondered where this was leading.
"Would you wait for the last minute to prepare for her
visit?" the tutor asked. "Would you wait until you heard her
and her entourage knocking at your door to realize, `Oh, no,
the supper's not cooked! The house isn't clean! I'm not ready
"Or would you," she continued, not waiting for an answer,
"prepare for the Queen's visit hours in advance? Early in the
morning you'd prepare the food, polish the silverware and set
the table. At six o'clock, when you saw her coming up the
drive, you'd be relaxed, confident in the knowledge that you
were all ready to greet her in the way she deserves."
Adi kept staring out the window at the apartment-lined street
snaking up the hill toward Mrs. Chapman's apartment. The
sunlight brightened and she winced at the glare from a golden
coach that appeared to wind its way between the tall
buildings. Horses and cavalrymen appeared out of nowhere to
escort the glittering coach in front and in back. It's the
Queen!" Adi thought involuntarily.
"The Queen is Shabbos," Mrs. Chapman was saying. "We don't
just keep Shabbos, we prepare for her. Come, let me show you
what I do to prepare for her."
She stood up. Adi jumped out of her chair, the image of the
glittering coach still vivid in her mind's eye. Mrs. Chapman
pointed out her shelf full of candles and other candlesticks
that she had placed around the room. She said something about
bringing lots of light into the world to welcome the Shabbos
Queen. Adi listened politely but her thoughts were miles
When she'd thanked Mrs. Chapman and left her sunny apartment,
Adi was infused with new purpose. It didn't occur to her that
most of what the tutor had said didn't really apply to her.
She didn't have an apartment of her own to clean, nor a
kitchen to cook in, nor children to ready for Shabbos. But
the tutor's words had given her a concrete plan of action.
Adi planned the rest of her day as carefully as any housewife
would. After lunch, she took her Shabbos clothes out of the
metal closet in her dorm room and laid them neatly across her
bed. She buffed her Shabbos shoes until they shone and placed
them under the bed. She stood in front of the rough wooden
shelf pegged over her desk and rearranged her few books and
knick- knacks, giving center stage to the silver-plated
candleholders she'd bought in the Old City. Then she showered
before any of the other girls came in, dressed and began to
At first, she stood by her window, looking out onto the
courtyard. Then she leaned against the windowsill and
contemplated the simple furnishings of her dorm room.
Finally, she sat down on her bed, hands clasped, gazing at
the open doorway. Every so often, one of her dorm mates raced
past, hurrying to be on time for Shabbos.
A siren sounded, giving ten minutes' notice before
candlelighting time. The signal elicited a flurry of activity
in the apartment. Adi continued to wait patiently, her eyes
fixed on the doorway.
She felt a strange sense of calm when, upon hearing the
second siren signal the time for candlelighting, she rose,
lit her candles, covered her eyes and said the blessing. Then
she sat down again on her bed, her face turned expectantly
toward the open door.
No one entered.
Her body remained composed, but inside, Adi felt tense as a
coiled spring. She waited and waited, and still, no one
entered. Of course she didn't expect the Queen of England to
walk in, but she awaited someone. The Shabbos Queen,
of course. Where was she?
Five minutes passed.
Ten minutes passed.
Adi felt the loosely-knit strands of hope that Mrs. Chapman
had woven around her that morning begin to slip away. Would
she ever understand what Shabbos was all about?
The open doorway gaped as empty as ever.
And then it struck her. Something had entered. It
already filled every corner of her room and enveloped her in
its soft, comforting embrace. All the worries and concerns of
the week were fading into nothingness before this pervasive,
all-encompassing presence. Adi allowed herself to sink into
its lush folds and realized that everything she would do for
the next twenty-four hours would effortlessly blend into this
This is Shabbos, Adi whispered in amazement.
Shabbos is Peace.