I really don’t mean to be snoop, but I couldn’t help but notice the activity outside my neighbor’s house yesterday. We were enduring yet another snowstorm and I was set to spend the day at home. It happens that my treadmill is adjacent to our front window overlooking our neighbor’s house across the street. During my midmorning workout, a furniture delivery truck pulled up and stayed for a long while (assembling and moving things around, I imagined.) I was reminded of the baby announcement that this neighbor had just sent us, celebrating the arrival of their third child. So while when nearly all of us were safely nesting at home to avoid slippery roads, I thought of how life-affirming it was that on this day especially they were embellishing their home to accommodate a growing family.

I couldn’t help but smile again when the chimney sweep van pulled up to their house a short while later. Clearly, some things were just too important to wait for the end of the storm. Comfortable furniture, a fire in the hearth, and everyone home – what a warming thought. I thought: if only we could all enjoy the loveliness of nesting with our family, with nowhere to go, being home together.

So many of us spend our days rushing from one thing to the next; from obligations to chosen activities. We fill our days and evenings here in suburbia, and it can be exhausting and depleting. We don’t get enough snow days.

I was thrilled when we had our first snow day of the season two weeks ago. (I have to say that I am so lucky that my husband does the snow clearing for us most of the time, freeing me to enjoy being completely snowed in.) I have a “Pavlovian” response whenever I hear of impending snow storms – I think of making soup. My ritual is to head for the market before the storm to get lots of vegetables, and I spend the first part of every snow day in the kitchen cooking. On that first snow storm I was so enthusiastic in the kitchen that we just finished consuming the bountiful leftovers.

Thinking about the comfort of furniture, a fireplace, and fresh homemade soup, I realized that snow days are much like Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. In Jewish custom, we have the opportunity for replenishment every seven days. The Shabbat is holy space and time, an opportunity to “be,” rather than having to get somewhere or get something done. Its beauty is in the consciousness-shifting experience of standing still in time; with nothing to produce or create, we have a chance to remember and enjoy what is most important to us. Cherishing home, family, good food, friends, and community – ah, this is as restful and relaxing as an evening in front of the fireplace.

As I peered at the furniture truck across the street my mind wandered to the rooms of my own house, and the myriad memories of sharing life, love and joy with family and friends. We have shared much grief here too, but we have been comforted by a very loving community. What a blessing to have a house that is home. Sharing Shabbat around the dinner table reminds us of the millions of people who do not have homes or food or families or friends. With the time and space to truly experience appreciation, we are reminded to help those who are less fortunate and to repair the world of its terrible imbalances.

Snow days are great, but they’re not Shabbat. I chose to not wear my watch yesterday, and reveled in the “shabbesdik” (Shabbat-like) experience of being home for the day. But I did maintain a very full day of work, complete with appointments by phone, email and Skype. I know that Shabbat is more than this – it is a day to shut off the responsibilities of the rest of the week. Having a snow day reminded me of how important it is to hold onto and cherish the spiritual practice of Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom – Sabbath greetings of peace, everyone!