Why Full Shabbat?

By Ruchi Koval


That’s the word I just keep thinking of. There are some experiences which have the power to make you feel you are in a protective bubble, where everything you want is in there with you, and everything else is out, and can’t touch you. For example, the women’s mission to Israel with JWRP is a bubble. In the bubble were fabulous, supportive, nurturing people; spiritual moments and experiences; synapses and “aha” moments, hourly; heavenly food; strong, cleansing emotion. Outside the bubble were family responsibility; work; discouraging people.

You can’t stay in the bubble forever. We need and want our family. We need and may even enjoy work. We need to challenge ourselves in various ways that we don’t do in the bubble. But it’s just so lovely to be in that bubble for a short period of time to fortify ourselves and draw strength for life outside the bubble.

Another great example is our Parent Shabbaton.While all Shabbatons are special, a Shabbaton just for adults is a bubble. No whining, pottying, arguing from the kids. In the bubble is great food over which you can linger with friends; meaningful and interesting conversations about stimulating lectures; beautiful nature which can be fully savored and appreciated. Now, everyone would agree that we want to live with our kids. We love our kids! But being in that bubble for a short while is a transformative and ultimately nourishing experience for both us AND for what we will bring back to our kids.

Observing a full Shabbat is a bubble too. Friday night dinners are incredible and lighting candles and going to services are beautiful, but only observing Shabbat FULLY is a bubble. We climb into the bubble upon lighting the candles on Friday night, and we don’t emerge until after Havdalah. Outside of the bubble, for that 25-hour period, are: errands, responsibilities, carpools, business and money concerns, planning, electronics of all kinds, and travel. Inside the bubble? Focus on what’s really important. Family, faith, community. Delicious meals and singing. Stories and walks and naps. Visiting neighbors and going to shul. It’s a beautiful bubble. It’s palpable.

You can’t live in the bubble all week. We wouldn’t even want to. We were created with ambition and drive and G-d wants us to get out there and make our mark on the world. We are wired to build, create, plan, go, do, call, text, email, brainstorm, collaborate. But the bubble gives us the drive and the refresh to get back out there afterwards.

The difference between doing part and all of Shabbat is like the difference between going to a lecture, or going to a Shabbaton. It’s really just a taste of what the bubble is like. Why not try climbing in the bubble to see what it might feel like? Taste the magic. See what happens.



Ruchi Koval is the associate director of the the Jewish Family Experience, an educational community in Cleveland. She is also a blogger, motivational speaker, parent coach, musician, author, and mom. Her first book, Service of the Heart: Prayer for Jewish Women, is due out this fall.


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