Being that I'm Orthodox, I don't drive on the Sabbath. Being that I'm punctually challenged, I don't get anywhere on time. This past erev Shabbos (Friday afternoon) these two different aspects of my being collided to near disastrous proportions. Because the sun doesn't wait. It doesn't accept apologies or excuses. It just sets, on time, as scheduled, end of story. And our story was almost finished as my family found ourselves stuck on the Garden State Parkway (which should have been called the Garden State Parking Lot) too close to sundown yet too far from our destination.
Running short on both time and options, we decided to spend Shabbos at my parents' house even though they were out of town and nothing was set up for us. After a quick call to their neighbor for a key and super quick stop at the supermarket for some food, we were nearly ready to go. We arrived at the house with nine minutes to spare. Enough time to set up lights, turn on the hot water urn and warming drawer (as cooking is prohibited on the Sabbath) and unload the car. The plan was foolproof all but for one small glitch. I don't know how to use my parents' heating system. It's fancy and complicated and the house was set to 55 degrees while they were away. So we bundled up and huddled close.
Despite the frigidness of the air and the simpleness of the meals, there was something very special about this last minute ordeal. On Shabbos it's a mitzvah to enjoy warm food and although the only warm food we had all Shabbos was a store-bought broccoli kugel, I've never savored the warmth of a dish so much in my life.
But what really made the experience meaningful was that we did it despite it's lack of convenience and comfort. Normally Shabbos is the finest day of the week both spiritually and physically. Our home is spotless, we wear our best clothes, and eat the nicest foods. And although that's how Shabbos is ideally spent, if one of the physical aspects is lacking, the show must still go on, and so it did.
Believe me, I wouldn't choose to do this regularly. I definitely enjoy the finer things in life and consider heat a basic necessity. But it was nice to remind myself where my priorities lie, since I'm usually and fortunately not tested in such ways.
I used to be a Jew of convenience. I only practiced the aspects of Judaism that didn't get in the way with what I felt like doing. This past Shabbos reminded me that today I live Jewishly whether it's convenient or not. Whether it's comfortable or not. It also reminded me to leave much earlier next time we go away for Shabbos.