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What I learned from Observing Shabbat

As I sat down to write this, I realized that one year ago (January 18, 2018) I wrote a blog post about this Torah portion, Va’eira.

Takeaways from this week’s Torah portion (Most important):

Hakaras Hatov” Recognizing the good that someone or something did for you.

G-d told Moses to tell Aaron to take his staff and stretch it over the waters. Why was it not fitting for Moses to hit the Nile? According to Rashi, the Nile river played role in saving Moses’ life so it is not fitting for him to afflict plagues through them.

Personal takeaways:

This past Shabbat (Friday night to Saturday night) I fully observed the Sabbath rest. Whereas normally I would abstain from getting on social media, this time I observed it completely. Rabbi Schmukler (my guest on last week’s Pre-Shabbat podcast episode) generously had me over for the Sabbath which allowed me to walk with him to services and, thus avoid driving. I left my phone at home and brought my books and journals. I had intended to journal and reflect, only to remember that writing prohibited on Shabbat.

Here’s how the day went…

5:38 pm: Shabbat started and luckily, I got there in the nick of time. On my podcast, Rabbi mentioned that once Shabbat hits we drop what we are doing and observe the sabbath to remember the importance of shabbat. I had a wonderful, productive week so my Friday was spent a little rushed preparing for Shabbat because I knew I wouldn’t be able to take care of additional things that I normally would. Nonetheless, I got to the Rabbi’s house right in time.

I hate to admit it, but as I got there I couldn’t help but question if I took care of everything that was needed to be done. I wanted to write things out but, since I couldn’t, trusted that all is a-okay.

6:30 pm: We did a short service welcoming the shabbat which puts ya in shabbat-mode.

7 pm: We began preparing for dinner and talking about the week’s Torah portion, Va’eira. We went around talking about what we were grateful for this week and there was one gentleman there who had a miracle I must share. One of the other guests the rabbi had over is a dentist, who recently started his own practice. He had been struggling with getting the business off the ground and asked Rabbi Schmukler for help.

In short, the gentleman wrote a letter to the last Rebbe of the Lubavitcher movement about the struggle he was in. In addition, he wrote something he would add in his routine. The man chose to add putting on Tefillin every morning.

I have minimal details about what the gentleman wrote, but sure enough, the next day he had a messenger from G-d come and offer him $20,000 to be a new patient.

An astounding example for how G-d and the Universal law of attraction works.

9:30 pm: We continued to share a wonderfully cooked meal and discussed the Torah portion. After dinner and deserts, I headed to bed.

Saturday – I got tired breaking down the time

I got up nice and early and got right to my well-planned morning routine. Only, I had no concern of the time nor checking my phone so I got through my morning hydration, meditation, and stretching very smoothly. On some week days, I would check the time and get distracted by notifications.

In addition, I had a fun twist to my cold thermogenesis that I normally do with a cold shower. According to many studies, this one specifically presented on Kion, “Cold thermogenesis increases brown fat activity and calorie expenditure, increases levels of adiponectin, a protein that helps prevent inflammation and regulate blood glucose levels, strengthens the immune system, helps strengthen the nervous system and stress response, and so much more.” Cold thermogenesis has been shown to release serotonin, get blood flowing, and, my favorite, it starts the day off strong and full of energy!

On Shabbat, showers are not technically allowed… So what did I do? I jumped into the Rabbi’s freezing cold pool. It was like a freezing cold mikvah. A mikvah is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism. So basically, I got religious and health benefits ;) Checkout more about a Mikvah here.

Rabbi Schmukler and I walked to the Chabad for coffee and learning the Tanya before services. There are numerous studies that show the health benefits of walking. For example, one study, showed that you can even get “excellent blood glucose controlling” by simply walking 15 minutes after your main meal of the day. By walking to the Chabad before and after services meal, Rabbi and I definitely got in some good benefits, especially since the meal after services is the main one on shabbat.

After the Shabbat Meal:

My father joined me for services and afterwards we walked around the Rabbi’s neighborhood talking and catching up. We spoke about life goals, the direction I am going, and plenty other fatherly conversations. Although we had a little argument, it was great walking and talking with my dad. I realized that this fit the lesson of Hakaras Hatov. My father has done so much good by me and I wanted to spend time with him. Spending time with loved ones is a key part of Shabbat, so I enjoyed that

I had in mind that I would finish two books I brought with me, but was not able to finish them because I chose to walk (a lot) and talk (a lot) with my father. I could have held myself more accountable, but shortly decided to look at what I had accomplished, which was more in the spirit of Shabbat.

It would have been a great personal achievement to have rested and finished two books, but personal achievements are not what shabbat was intended for. It was not made so that I can catch up on reading and resting, but so that I can observe the G-dliness around me.

That’s precisely what I did. By spending time with loved ones, eating a big shabbat meal, learning about the Torah portion, walking with my dad, and more, I observed and felt the presence of G-d within and all around me.

Thanks for reading! Bringing in the health benefits is a great way to start the practice of observing the shabbat. But the real reasons, as mentioned above, bring out the true intention and spirit behind the holy day.

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