In these long sweltering Shabbats, when the endless hot afternoons seem never ending, I feel like the late afternoon part of the day hits this limbo kind of state. It’s still Shabbat, yet there’s a palpable feeling; it’s ebbing.
Sometime around that time, I feel like there is risk of the Shabbat blues hitting.
In contrast to the previous day’s intense pace of Friday’s anticipation for Shabbat, culminating in twilight’s peacefulness as Shabbat enters, the reverse feelings start emerging. An intangible discomfort or distress, a neither-here-nor-there feeling, can take over. Dare I say, it can start feeling a bit shleppy, like the day is dragging on.
According to tradition, this time is actually peak Shabbat time, yet somehow, sometimes, knowing Shabbat is about to depart — the opposite feeling takes hold.
On each Shabbat, tradition teaches, we are each bestowed with an additional Shabbat soul, a neshama yeteira. A weekly companion that visits us temporarily, adding and doubling our soul essence, only to depart at the conclusion of Shabbat.
Perhaps it’s the twinges of this oncoming soul-departure at the approaching conclusion of Shabbat that is subconsciously felt.
What to do? Shaleshudos — the third Shabbat meal — is one answer. Instead of relegating it to the leftover challah and tuna spread, own this late afternoon departure-like meal, invest in it a bit, and enjoy it.
Devilled eggs, cold Asian pasta salads, frosty refreshing cold summer soups such as gazpacho, cucumber or the original Jewish cold soup borscht with sour cream, all work.
Caprese salad — mozzarella, tomato, basil — cold salmon, wine and cheese, berry smoothies, icy spritzers, frozen popsicles or other quick and cold summer fare, are easy and lovely to add to this special third meal.
Indoors or out, it’s a transition from Shabbat toward its exit.
As the mealtime bleeds into the day’s streaky sunset and twilight, the mellow and muted feeling of songs of longing or laughter with friends or loved ones, is a nice accompaniment to that departing Shabbat feeling.
In general in life, when we have those days or moments when we feel the soul less, when those blues hit, we wait it out until the good feelings return, often times by an unexpected sight, scent, conversation, the surprise joy of a tasty invigorating food, or perhaps a song that pops up, triggering a return to a feeling of well being and banishing those temporary blues.
At Havdalah, the ceremony marking the conclusion of Shabbat, we prepare for tackling the absence of our additional soul by inhaling the scent of spices, to restore the vacuum left by Shabbat’s double soul’s departure. I like to use a variety of aromatics to pass around.
Once Shabbat is over, post-Havdalah, ignite the very same candlesticks you lit Shabbat candles with, at the moment of ushering in Shabbat. There’s something to having the very same instruments that were lit up with fiery candles that descended with a light of the peacefulness of Shabbat, to now depart from Shabbat with. You re-enter the week after bidding Shabbat farewell by the gift of the light of those very same candlesticks.
There are various mystical post- Shabbat traditions.
Oftentimes, the spirit of the third meal’s singing will continue, this time accompanied by chasidic tales of tzadikim, the righteous, of times past.
Of course, come Saturday night, there’s the rude awakening that the work week is upon us! And then there is the mundane post Shabbat clean up to have to contend with.
But often there is a musical accompaniment to it — be it impromptu, instrumental or recorded, that brings the evening alive and assuages the soul.
There are times that I am counting the minutes and don’t feel that Shabbat-is-departing-feeling as I await the sparkle of three stars in the sky.
But the more I’ve spoken with people about this, it seems that while this ebbing Shabbat blues is not an official diagnosis, somehow many people feel it in that indefinable it’s still Shabbat, yet Shabbat is about to end, time frame.
Maybe I’m overthinking this one. I’m sure for many, the hectic pace of life obliterates any lingering thoughts about the transition of Shabbat as it exits.
I’ve got to say, for some reason, for me, this seems to be a long summer day Shabbat syndrome. In the winter, I try and stretch Shabbat a bit later, deferring its conclusion.
Here is to a summer ahead with long and enjoyable Shabbat afternoons, whose liminal twilight departure time will be an inviting and soothing one.
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