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By Suzanne Levy

TGIF. Or in our case, TGIFN. Friday night. Shabbat has lasted for thousands of years because of its ancient understanding about the relentless, non-stop nature of human activity. Whether you were herding sheep, laying bricks, laboring in the fields, or laboring in an office – all had to stop.

And so it does (on most Fridays) in our house. We are not observant, and we don’t keep Shabbat for 25 hours. But on Friday nights, our family holds hands, takes deep breaths, and lights the candles. However exhausted we are, with to-do lists half done, a new energy takes over the room. Somehow, the light of the candles connects with another part of the brain – one that is emotional, spiritual, universal, timeless.

As I stand there, reciting the brachah with our 12-year-old daughter, I feel my late grandma and mother proudly watching. “Good shabbes,” I say as I turn to the table. We bless the wine and the challah and settle down into our seats – and into an evening with each other.

Because even though we are not observant, we do not use technology on Friday nights. No phones, no social media, no TV, no video games. It’s a time to connect and be present and be together. To laughingly quibble about who gets the rest of the tasty roasted brussel sprouts (“you have them, no you have them!”), to compliment the colorful table setting, to debate whether we should pull or slice the challah.

And then during dinner, we have another tradition – one perhaps not strictly part of Jewish observance but one rooted in Jewish values. We go around the table and say what we are grateful for. Some evenings, there’s a full and voluble list “My job, seeing the sunset on the beach, the support of my family, a good grade, a loved one in better health.”

Other times, when life seems overwhelming and the blues have settled in, the list is sparing. “A roof over our head. Music.” But there’s always something to be grateful for. Always something. Week after week, we notice ourselves changing, growing, struggling – it’s all welcome at the table.

After dinner, we play board games. Different favorites emerge at different times: Game of Life, Hedbandz, Jenga. With no phones distracting us, time seems luxurious, something to be reveled in. It takes as long as it takes. We relax into ourselves, smiling with the candles glowing behind us, happy to be alive. The world can wait.

And then dinner is cleared, and it’s time for bed. Same as any other night – and yet not. We are refreshed, renewed, connected in a different way. TGIFN indeed.

Mon, June 5 2023 16 Sivan 5783