What are you doing for Shabbat?

The weekend in Israel (Friday and Saturday) is approaching and as a visitor, the number one question I always get, What are you doing for Shabbat? Friends ask. People I just met casually, ask. The nine-year-old daughter of a friend of mine texted to ask me, What I was doing for Shabbat?

At one time, my American Jewish perspective interpreted this question to mean, was I Shomer Shabbos? Since I am not, I always answered this question vaguely.

And then I had an epiphany a few years ago on a business visit to Tel Aviv. I extended my trip to stay over the weekend. I was on the beach and several young men in their twenties were having a party day. Suddenly, one of them looked at their watches, and said they had to go. They had to be home in time for Shabbat. My initial thought was, only in Israel do young people do shots on the beach all day and then rush home in time for sundown.

And then it hit me, it was not about getting home in time because they were Shomer Shabbos, but they needed to get home in time for Shabbat dinner. All those times people asked me, What was I doing for Shabbat, was all about did I have a place to go for Friday Shabbat dinner – the most important meal of the week. The one meal the entire family will be together. The one meal, no one should be alone. The one meal that culturally defines all Israelis, no matter their age, because Shabbat dinner is about sharing food and stories and joy with others.

What did I do for Shabbat in Israel; I had dinner with friends. What are you doing for Shabbat?

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