The seudah was beautiful. But I feel empty inside
We’re always looking for outings and activities to do on Motzaei Shabbos,” a popular blogger once shared. “You know why? I think it’s because our neshamah yeseirah leaves us, and we’re sad, so subconsciously, we look for something to fill that lack, that yearning.”
When I read that, I was touched. And saddened.
When Motzaei Shabbos arrives in my house, I typically say Baruch Hamavdil, pull off the white tablecloths, change the kids into pjs, and start doing laundry. Later, I drink a strong coffee. I hardly feel a lack.
Or do I?
I wonder this as another Shabbos is heralded in.
I hastily hang up the Mr. Clean–scented mop. My house is sparkling clean, the hot plate packed, fridge loaded with fresh food.
I enter the dining room to tzind lecht, cover my eyes, and say the brachah. “Git Shabbos,” I whisper, and I feel only a hint of magic enter my home.
I kiss my son, tousle his peyos. We set the table. Soon, Tatty is home, and the seudah is beautiful. There’s singing and bantering, and pride-filled answers to the parshah sh’eilos. We enjoy fluffy white challahs, sweet fish, clear chicken soup, delicious minute steak and compote. We clean up, and I head to the couch to read the weekly magazines, feeling drained. And empty.
I don’t know why… the seudah was beautiful. But I feel empty.
In the morning, I wake up to a white wonderland.
I walk into the dining room to supervise my son. “Good Shabbos!” I chant. He’s playing quietly with the Magna-Tiles. Good.
Yawning, I head to the kitchen, pull up the patio door shades. There’s a thick white blanket draping my porch. I slide open the glass door a crack and inhale the crisp air.
I open the cupboard and reach for the milchig mug, ready to engage in my weekly ritual of sipping a hot coffee with a treat while binge reading until I’m called to break up a fight or something of that nature.
I pause at the coffee nook. Maybe I should give davening a shot? I want to connect to Him.
I push the idea away. It’s easier to read, but...
My son is playing with his friend in the basement, and they seem fine.
I drink my coffee, eat my treat, and take a siddur. I plant a chair at the dining room window so I can see the snow falling, slower and relaxed now. There’s a thick soft layer of white on cars, and the branches glitter like a bride’s tiara. It looks like there are little white flowers on people’s shtreimlach and hair.
I daven. I’m up to the Hallelukahs. I move the sheer curtain aside, notice the way the sheets of snow fall on a slant — and there it is, in my siddur, “Hanosen sheleg katzomer.”
And a part of me that was worried about something is magically stilled. I have this sudden thought, an epiphany that He who creates this snow, this brighter than bright snow that falls so perfectly, He who can create this utter beauty, He’s perfection. I blink the smattering of tears, and I go on.
Nishmas Kol Chai. Thank You. Thank you for my husband, for my sons (my little sunshines), my house, my health. Thank you!
Humbled. Chip after chip falls off me. I never knew tefillah could be so therapeutic.
I’m still a flawed human, so my Shemoneh Esreh is beautiful, albeit rushed, because I hear the kids fighting over something. I close the small should-be-used-more-often siddur, feeling happy.
A beautiful Shabbos lunch seudah follows. A short nap and Shabbos is almost over.
I don’t know why — I hardly ever do this — but after serving my son a Shabbos party (Bamba and flutes and halvah and a candy) and washing for a quick Seudah Shlishis, I sit with my son on the couch, and he cuddles me, and we sing. I teach him my favorite seminary songs, teach him “Tehillim’l Tehillm’l.”
We sing, and the sky becomes darker and darker still. It’s navy blue now. Stars light up the winter sky. It’s Motzaei Shabbos.
And I think of swiping the white tablecloth off the table, the industrious rumbling of the dishwasher, of gleaming countertops, and no, no, no, no! I want to hold onto this holiness.
There’s an ache in my chest, and it’s five minutes past Motzaei Shabbos, and then ten, and still, I’m singing. My son looks on, trying to memorize the words. And then I say, gently, “A gitte vuch!” And to my shock, there are tears in my eyes. And suddenly I’m asking my little one in a choked voice, “Do you know why we smell besamim?”
He shakes his head, “No, Ma.”
“It’s because on Shabbos we have a neshamah yeseirah, an extra neshamah, and on Motzaei Shabbos, it leaves us. We’re sad, and we smell the besamim and feel a little better. And now Mommy is a bit sad because I love Shabbos.”
He nods his little head. Smart boy.
I remove the white tablecloth.
It’s Motzaei Shabbos, and I feel empty.
But a good kind of empty. An empty because I got filled-and-I-see-what-I’m-going-to-miss-now kind of empty. And loudly, I sing a song from my seminary days. “But you will come back next week we know! You will come back for we love you so.” Then I sing “A gitte vuch” over and over.
And I feel full.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 793)
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