Sunday, April 20, 2014 Nisan 20, 5774

Reflections on Two Years of Blogging About Shabbat

January 3, 2013 By:
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Miriam Steinberg-Egeth and her 19-month-old daughter, Aliza, at Havdalah on Dec. 29, 2012.

I taught the phrase, “I did it,” to my daughter Aliza a couple months ago to help her express her successes. Now she uses it with abandon to mean anything from, “Look what I accomplished” to “Look what I got someone else to do for me” to “I like this thing.”

She apparently learned these meanings from me, because it is with all of those in mind that I say, emphatically, “I did it.”
 
In case you need a recap, I blogged about all my Shabbat meals for a year; I got other people to blog about their Shabbat meals for the next year; and I really, really like the way it all turned out.
 
To commemorate the end of the blog, I spent all day Friday in my kitchen, mostly by myself, making a humongous mess, using all of our kitchen appliances and most of our dishes to cook foods that I was excited to share with my friends for a “Blog Siyyum.”
 
Traditionally, a siyyum is a meal that celebrates completing the study of a tractate of Talmud. While I’m not exactly comparing the blog to all that, I wanted a way to celebrate a milestone of finality, so I feel good about appropriating the term. Plus, I scheduled the party for the late afternoon on Shabbat followed by Havdalah, the ceremony that lets you know something is really over (and the way Shabbat is separated from the rest of the week).
 
Moments before guests started arriving, we had two gigantic messes to clean up. But then, suddenly, we had a clean(ish) floor and a house full of people who cared enough about me and about this project to come out in the freezing rain.
I told the 25 or so friends in my living room — and say now to anyone reading this — that I genuinely hope this blog has had a positive impact on how you view Shabbat and ownership over your identity and decisions, religious or otherwise.
Mostly, people talked and ate, and Aliza ran back and forth and shrieked a bit. I led Havdalah, which has never been one of my strengths, but if not now, when, right? 
 
One friend suggested that the next thing to do would be to write about creating meaningful Shabbat experiences in a family with young children. With that in mind, I’ll close this post, this year and this blog with a description of what Shab­bat looks like in our house these days:
 
At sundown, we light candles. If my husband, Marc, is home, he holds Aliza. If not, I hold her (and I’ve perfected my skill of lighting a match really far away from her reach). As soon as she sees the flame, she puts her hands over her face and says, “eyes.”
 
Before I’m done saying the blessing, she usually starts asking for grape juice. She manages to stay still, though, while I give her a blessing and kiss her head. She gets a taste of juice next, and then we wait for Marc to come home for the rest of the rituals.
 
A couple of weeks ago, instead of greeting him with her usual, “Daddy,” the first thing she said was “challah.” 
 
We say kiddush (more grape juice), the blessing for hand washing (Aliza sticks her hands directly in the cup of water) and motzi over challah (Aliza is now in charge of the saltshaker). For a 19-month-old, I think that’s a pretty good start.
 
Last week, she was so desperately asking for more grape juice while we were singing “Shalom Aleichem” that we started maniacally dancing around the kitchen to deflect her. This week, as soon as we started singing, she grabbed our hands and said, “dancing.” It was beautiful. 
 
On Saturdays, we try to stay in bed a little longer than usual, entertaining Aliza with books and songs. Then we have some combination of playgrounds, Tot Shabbat, lunch, visiting friends, and, when we’re lucky, naps.
 
Why so much about Friday nights and not Saturday, when, ostensibly, this whole blog was about how Shabbat lasts 25 hours? That’s because 1) We’re still figuring out what Shabbat looks like for our family, and 2) Life with a toddler is busy, exhausting and unpredictable, and if we weren’t able to adjust accordingly, we’d go nuts.
 
So, after two years of excruciating detail about some aspects of Shabbat and not about others, maybe that’s the point: Do what works for you in the moment without driving yourself bonk­ers.
 
I thought I might have extensive, profound thoughts to sum up everything I’ve learned or a strong closing statement to take forward into the future. Instead, I have a loving husband, an incredible toddler, a huge belly (mostly because of being pregnant, but maybe a little bit because of all the food, too), a wonderful community, and lots of great memories, recipes, and leftover cupcakes.
 
Thanks for reading. Seriously. This has been awesome. I don’t expect to do it again, but I’m awfully glad it happened and that you, anonymous reader or close friend, were there for it. Shavuah tov, happy 2013, and, when it’s that time again, Shabbat shalom.
 
This column originally appeared at 25x52.wordpress.com. Find the full, unedited version there, as well as the complete blog archives. While the “Sha-blog” is over, Miriam continues writing as an advice blogger for the Exponent.

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