Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shabbos, Elevator Pitches, and Family

R' Yakov Horowitz has a very interesting and positive piece from a story that happened in an elevator that he put up yesterday. Excerpt:

It was Thursday evening and I was visiting a family member who was on the eighth floor of Maimonides Hospital in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, New York. In the lobby, I boarded the elevator, which was filled with individuals comprising a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds. One floor up, several people disembarked from the elevator, and two women walked in – an Oriental nurse and an Orthodox woman who was a regular volunteer for the local Bikur Cholim. They walked in mid-conversation, with the nurse finishing a description of her plans for Saturday and Sunday. She then turned to the volunteer and asked her, “So, what are you doing this weekend?”

The frum woman responded with a 100-watt smile and said, “You know, the nicest thing about being Jewish is our Shabbos. For 25 hours, I get to turn off my cell phone and email. I just enjoy my husband and children, unwind from the week – and try my best to get closer to God.” The elevator bell rang for her floor and she exited with the nurse she was conversing with. As she walked out, all of us still on the elevator heard her say to her friend, “You can’t imagine how much I look forward to Shabbos all week long.”

Silence reigned as we rode up the next few floors, but it was quite evident that her words had a powerful impact on all those who heard it. In fact, as the only Orthodox Jew remaining in the elevator, I got a few meaningful glances from the other passengers who were obviously mulling over her words.

He proceeds to discuss the story, and it well worth reading. R' Gil Student at Hirhurim wondered about the idea that Shabbos is a great time for family, noting that R' Saadia Gaon didn't list it as one of his secondary reasons for Shabbos:
R. Sa'adia Ga'on (Emunos Ve-Dei'os 3:2) lists the following logical reasons for Shabbos and holidays, which he believes is generally about obedience to God but has secondary reasons as well:
  1. to rest from work
  2. to spend time acquiring wisdom
  3. for extended prayer
  4. to meet with others to study religion
I find it noteworthy that he did not include in his list anything about family gatherings and spending time together. He did add "and other similar things" but I find it farfetched to think he meant spending time with one's family.
It's certainly an interesting discussion, and R' Horowitz thought it was a good question and responded in comment #9 on his own piece as well as on Gil's post.

Personally, I'm not sure that they're not one and the same. For many, rest from work is spending time with one's family. It is this family time which allows them to truly relax and enjoy the Shabbos. Moreover, as shown from R' Horowitz's piece, it is this family time which nowadays seems to have one of the strongest effects on people's strengthening of religion.

More to say, short on time. Will add in the comments later on.