Friday, December 11, 2009

A Shabbat Prayer

So, this is what happened.

On the way to shul
Shabbat morning
I run into Max, also on his way there
And I walk with him.
We get to the corner, the light is red but there are no cars to be seen, I start to cross
Max doesn’t.

I walk back to him, puzzled. The light turns green, he crosses.
You don’t jaywalk? He smiles.
This is New York, everyone jaywalks.
Not on Shabbat? I ask.
That’s it, Max says. Every day we rush rush rush, on Shabbat, when the light tells me to slow down or stop, I slow down or stop.
I get it, I say, fantastic. love it!

And I try it on the way home that afternoon.
How fun, a new minhag.
All Walk signs, the little white walking man,
Until I get to the corner,
Two blocks from home.
Don't Walk.
There’s no traffic in any direction.
And the Don’t Walk sign is a palm print, a red hamsa.

Stop, says the hamsa. It’s Shabbat.
Meditate on the moment, you are stopped, no future no past, rest here on the corner of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue in Park Slope Brooklyn, rest, rest…
I stop.

It’s driving me insane.

There’s no traffic! What am I waiting for? This is soooo not New York,
I'm supposed to move forward whenever I can,
not stop when I can go.
And I can go!!!

Only a few more seconds I’m sure.

Friggin’ hamsa, where’s the little white walking man. I want the walking man. People are walking past me, they must think I’m hurt or crazy, just standing on the corner, no traffic, stopped. Damn you, Max!

But I said I would stop so I’m stopped.
So I look around. I see the leaves on the sidewalk. I hear the sounds of Brooklyn Saturday afternoon. Some kids are shouting at each other. Across the street a couple walks together, bumping each other as they move, friendly bumps.
I’m breathing.

A dog barks. I like dogs.

I’m resting.

Leaves on the sidewalk. Huh, look, a nice kind of rust colored one, lays next to a maroon one, looks good. Reminds me of the curtain on the Torah Ark.

Nice day. Here. Just here. Not going forward. Not going backward. Shabbat.

Oh no, the light is green, there's the little white white walking man.
Too soon!

I go on.

Blessed God of My Ancestors, Inventor of Shabbat, thank you for the stopping and the not stopping.


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