May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Proverbial Shabbat Meal

I imagine that many of you are reading this article on Shabbat—perhaps Friday evening before or after dinner, or on Shabbat itself as you sip coffee or enjoy the restfulness of these long Shabbatot. Shabbat is a time to reflect and recharge, and yet for so many the message and intention of the day is lost.

For those in recovery from any type of mental health issue, Shabbat can be difficult due to the fewer coping mechanisms accessible and the feeling that the day is “never-ending,” especially since we changed the clocks. For others, Shabbat feels like a performance—the food, house and presentation are all evaluated regardless of how little time was available and all the challenges that may get in the way. There can be hints of competition, of looking one another over, of deeming meals or the house’s presentation as the deciding factor around an enjoyable Shabbat.

The following are four ways to enhance the experience of Shabbat in accordance with the values of this day, as well as the importance of moving away from the “appearance” of elements of this day:

  1. 1. Let’s not make it all about the food. Shabbat is typically celebrated with special meals and, at times, the inclusion of guests for said meals, or even for the entire experience. There is often a pressure to have various types of food and homemade delicacies to add something special to the day. There is nothing wrong with this. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to put effort and energy into a time when one is potentially bringing multiple people together. Furthermore, it is important to recognize the efforts and hard work of those who put Shabbat together, in the preparatory sense. There is, though, an issue with losing sight of the day because of all this pressure. We, as human beings, have the capacity for only so much before the feeling of being stressed or burned-out hits. Meals and de-cluttered houses in preparation for Shabbat should not be a competition—they should be a personal choice. We should absolutely welcome Shabbat, but not at the expense of our sanity. If this means take-out or plastic, then so be it. It is essential to find ways of connecting to the day as an individual, family or community and this is not reliant on any type of show we put on.
  2. 2. Create a list of your intentions and hopes around Shabbat. Oftentimes, until the candles are actually lit, it can feel like a roller-coaster preparing for Shabbat. There is a familiar sigh that occurs once no more work can be done and the time for rest and relaxation commences. This is an incredible opportunity to reflect on one’s hopes and intentions for Shabbat. Rather, I mean taking the time to conceptualize what is most wanted and needed over Shabbat. Perhaps it is to finish the book you’ve been looking forward to all week, or maybe you plan to spend time with friends/family and reconnect with yourself in that way, or perhaps you can use the time to learn—whether it be the parsha or otherwise. In either case, identifying goals and intentions reflective of your values can provide depth and meaning to Shabbat in a way that may normally get lost.
  3. 3. Remain mindful, with your feet on the ground and eyes to the sky. For those struggling with any type of mental health issue, the rest affiliated with Shabbat can feel triggering and difficult, depending on the particular journey of that individual. It is important to use the bullet point listed above to determine goals for the day and ways of achieving said goal that combine your particular background as well as the available resources given to you in the context of Shabbat. This time will pass, this is true. But I do not think that one need to limit Shabbat as “something to get through.” Rather, remembering to stay grounded by using various tools (mindful breathing, five senses, etc.) as well as naming what may feel helpful about Shabbat in comparison to other days can allow for meaning beyond “just getting through it.”
  4. 4. There is plenty happening in the world; let’s not just talk about food, dieting, exercise and appearance. Diet culture is prevalent in our society as is poor body esteem and eating disorders. Shabbat meals can easily morph into a time to discuss one’s current workout regimen, the latest diet out there, how many “carbs were cut” this week and how the food at the meal enables everyone who is trying to reduce calories. This is not only boring in my opinion—there is so much more out there!—but allows for a perpetuation of so much that can be so damaging. I typically receive the question “Is it really so bad?” or “Everyone does it; how can you say it’s wrong?” The endorsement of body dissatisfaction is quite prevalent when we prolong the cycle; children hear it. Adolescents hear it. Adults hear it. This idea that we are only worthy when we aim to fix ourselves limits our existence to a body, to a number. Let us rebel against this and aim to do so on Shabbat when our community comes together. Let us use that time to discuss deeper values and ways that we can allow one another to grow.

Shabbat is a day when we have the opportunity to review our week and rest before we jump into the next one. May it be a time of reflection, inner peace, learning and growth. May we all remember that there are those struggling and Shabbat may feel more challenging. May we remind ourselves that Shabbat is not truly about how we set the table or if the challah is homemade or what one is wearing. It is about being grateful for all that we have and a time to simply be. Perhaps if we accept the bullet points above, we can support one another in our collective growth not only as individuals but as a community.

By Temimah Zucker, LMSW

Temimah Zucker, LMSW, is the assistant clinical director of Monte Nido Manhattan, works in private practice in NYC, and speaks nationally on the subjects of eating disorders, body image and self-esteem. For more information visit www.temimah.com.

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles