a prospective parent was here for Shabbos, and shared some of what keeping Shabbos means to him and his family:
I came from a modern Orthodox family. We kept Shabbos – it was a given. The TV was never on, unless maybe for the World Series our dad let us keep it on a timer. We went to the synagogue, we ate as a family, I took it for granted. I didn’t appreciate the beauty of Shabbos and the gift of Shabbos until I was older.
In my 20’s I moved to Manhattan. I drifted a little in terms of Jewish observance. The building I lived in had a bunch of apartments with ex-Chassidim, people who grew up much more religious than I but ended up being less religious than I was. I wasn’t all that observant but some things stuck with me. Like Shabbos. Yes, I would watch TV with those guys on Shabbos, but would never touch the set, never changed a channel. They knew that and would specifically put on shows that I didn’t like, knowing that I would not touch the TV. And all Shabbos-long I felt some kind of weight, some kind of inner sense that it was Shabbos and I was doing something wrong, and when Shabbos ended on Saturday Night that weight lifted. It was ingrained in me.
When I was dating, I told the girl I was with (but didn’t marry) that Shabbos was important to me, and I wanted it for our family. I couldn’t explain it myself, but it was deep and real for me. She heard me but didn’t really get it, because she wasn’t raised with it, and didn’t experience it on her own. Yes, she went to Israel to study and try it, but I could tell that her heart wasn’t in it, she didn’t have that same feel for Shabbos as I did. That relationship didn’t work out for a number of reasons, but Shabbos was part of it, I really wanted it in my life.
When dating my wife, I spent a Shabbos in her parents home. Her mother was an accomplished woman, she ran her own successful business, she was the main breadwinner of the family. But sitting in that home, watching the interaction between her father and mother, I felt that sense of Shabbos. The whole world shut down for 24 hours. It was time for family, it was time for something deeper than the everyday life of all week. Even dysfunctional families can have some sense of calm and togetherness on Shabbos, it forces you to do that.
So I really love Shabbos. I come home from a hard and busy week at work, and sometimes there are pressing or stressful matters that I have to get to first thing on Monday or even on Sunday. But once Shabbos begins I can’t do anything about it. It all shuts down and I get to spend time with family. It’s the greatest gift. I don’t know if I expressed to you how much it means to me, or why its so beautiful, but it really is.