Monday, November 14, 2005

Preparing for Shabbos

Shabbos Blessing By Michele Goren
There was a line in the play Pod Kablukom when the brother shows up at the door and asks if the family is getting ready for the big guest. He asks “Are you preparing?” and Papa responds with a tired wave “We are preparing, we are preparing. We are always preparing.” This line was supposed to be idiomatically Belarus of course, but lately I definitely feel like this and especially lately come Fridays. I’ve gotten into Sabbath observance and for the most part this means that life pretty much comes to a head around midmorning on Friday and then begins to funnel itself into categories and then into packages needing to be tied up and put away for the day.

It is an interesting thing once you get into, this removing one’s self from all work for a day. Purposefully, that is. They make you swear to it in the book, you know. The first couple of times I did it and it was ok because I pretty much spent the day sleeping. I guess that I had been living in a state on constant exhaustion for quite some time probably from the stress as much as anything. I actually needed the rest. But after the thrill and novelty of simply, completely and utterly dis-acknowledging one’s requirements, responsibilities and necessities wore off, after a couple of weeks I discovered that the unfortunate flip-side of this was boredom. There was nothing to do. I know that they suggest some things you are allowed to do; visiting with friends, reading a good book. But you know “the life” in Belarus always demands that the fiscal calamities stay right there in front of you and so consequently, that old American adage about “I you are not making money you are spending it” not only holds true, but also hurts like liver cancer and tends to get in the way of you ability to concentrate on the pleasure of the company or the words. And, in my case, you have to add in that I am addicted to working during the early morning hours because of the differences in cheap internet costs. So what are you supposed to do at 2:00am Saturday morning when you have no desire to sleep and not a thing you are allowed to do?

So, ok, guilty as hell I admit I opened the computer and did a little reading. And then, you know, because I was there anyway, I checked out my chess games on the web. This is playing chess and not working at chess right? Ok, I know I was messing up but I hate to be bored in the middle of the night and there is only so many times you can re-read Hemingway before you start to lose it. I got into a pretty good argument about this by the way with a visiting rabbi about this. I mentioned to him that I actually used the computer for some reading when I accidentally woke up early, early one Saturday morning and my body had zero desire to go back to sleep. I argued with him that the lighting of a fire argument probably doesn’t apply in this case because the computer was already turned on. He of course countered that each and every time I tap a key, I am causing a tiny electrical explosion to take place, and this then is the creation of fire. And of course this is not permitted. “And of course you know that you are not supposed to write more than one letter during the Shabbos as well.” I knew this. And I know where he was going. You just can’t beat a visiting rabbi; no home field advantage here at all. “Are you telling me you didn’t write something while you were there?” he asked with a knowing smile. I wrote. I admit it. I did…

So preparing for the Shabos last Friday was really on my mind and I had been furiously trying to piece all of this work together since early, early Friday morning. I mean, I started at about 2:00am, got out an edition of the BEING HAD Times (Though, as I have just been reminded by a reader that I did forget to cover the hunger strike being undertaken by several Belarusians who have been granted political asylum in Belgium. According to the BR23blog, the folks went on a hunger strike demanding tougher measures from the EU authorities against the current Belarusian political regime.), wrote a couple of comment/arguments for other blogs (Coming Anarchy/Belarus Watch and Tobias Ljungvall on Belarus), tried to fix some technical issue that I have wanted to do for a while such as converting e-mail addresses to “mailto’s” and revamping the links sections so as to make navigation a little easier, reworking and setting up easier systems for dealing with my “ads” and in connection with this, there was also some work to be done on the “pledge drive” and mailer I have coming up (and yes, if you are on one of the mailing lists you are certain to be hearing about this soon, so get those check book and visa cards ready! Money is needed and this is no time to have to shut down) and then I simply ran out of time. The cheap internet period was over and that was that.

Daniel de Borah: Perhaps not utilizing that castle was a mistake
Unfortunately though, I didn’t even have a chance to even get to my personal mail in time and included in this was making a move in two really amazing chess games I have going on ‘’, a site that is way deserving of a plug by the way. The guys I am playing these rather special games with are with a Belarusian friend named Gleb, who is working in a high tech firm in Sweden at the moment and the other, and this is probably the most amazing chess game I have ever been a part of by the way, with Daniel de Borah, a concert pianist and utter all around genius as far as I can see. In fact, I should mention to my readers from the United Kingdom that he will be performing the Kreisleriana, Op.16 by Schumann and Prokofiev’s Sonata No.4 in C minor, Op.29 at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Lunchtime Concert series this Thursday, 17 November at the Shaw Library, old building at 1:05pm. The address of the LSE is given simply as Houghton Street, London.

At any rate, this was the morning. I got to go back to sleep for about two hours and then there was the household chores that needed to be taken care of. And after this, I had to go and make a copy of this weeks Torah and haphtarah portion from the internet café. I have been making a habit of making an English language translation so that I can follow the readings a little closer. What this amounts to is like watching a foreign language film with subtitles. But it is also helpful because the Torah reading is supposed to be done without mistakes and when there are slip-ups or mispronunciations they are supposed to be pointed out. And so having the text in front of me, even though it is in English allows me to participate, which is of course what it is all about. After this, I then got started on my afternoon writing session which included a lot of the words you are looking at here. I actually wanted to get this blog out before th Shabbos but as you can see I didn’t make it. No excuses, I simply ran out of sunlight and that was that. It would be very easy to blame the short days for this, but I won’t. I mean, sometimes you just have to admit that you are not Superman (Batman?) and just agree that you blew a deadline. And blew it I did. I mean, I worked right up to the end, but even as the clock started making its final turn towards 4:00pm, I was still typing away. There was no chance, and I know it, but I tried anyway. And then, in my haste I pressed the wrong button, two wrong buttons actually, and then the computer froze up and that was that.

So what to do? Well, I just stood up, took a deep breath and closed the computer. That was all it took. I just did it. And in this little action of agreeing to stop, I also agreed to also not think about the work or the money or the life or any of the things Tanya likes to nag me about as well. I went into the other room, pulled off my house shorts, pulled on a pair of slacks, a clean shirt and a sweater. Egor had decided to come with me but he was still trying to get his homework done when I ready. “It’s time.” I said. Just a minute. “It’s time. If we are going, we're going.” He nodded and slammed his books closed, jumped into a pair of jeans and pulled his black sweater over his head. We both put on our shoes and I plopped a yarmulke on his head and my black hamburger on mine. I grabbed my siddur, my pages from Lech Lecha (the first story of Abraham), all of which would stay at the temple until the conclusion of the Shabbos (No carrying of objects) and we were off. The sun was indeed just beginning to set into the west as we crossed the street, and this time I promised myself that there was not going to be any questions; I was just going to (not) do it. And that is exactly what happened.

So it is now Sunday night, and I am just putting the finishing touches on this re-write of a piece of writing I failed to finish on Friday afternoon. Of course all of the problems which were there last week are still in place; my situation is still exactly as it was. But even if I lost a day and a half of time, I am not sorry I stopped. I am not sorry that I didn’t open the computer. Life goes on. Maybe you are supposed to stop if for no other reason than to remind the problems themselves that they are not as big and bad as they might like you to think they are. Or maybe you are supposed to stop for your health and peace of mind. But you are supposed to stop. And that’s all there is to it.