It takes a lot of work to be able to rest.
Practically speaking, to make Shabbat, we have to prepare meals, buy or bake fresh challah, keep candles and wine at hand, sometimes invite guests. To put the week aside with a clear conscience, we have to organize our work in the workplace and our work to take care of our homes, our causes, and our communities so that everything gets done when it needs to and no one is left in the lurch. Even if we have done this, it’s not easy to cast off the uniform one’s mind and soul wear all week and don the splendid robes of the kings and queens we are supposed to become on Shabbat. It’s impossible to do if you work down to the last minute. It takes time, to leave those cares behind and put oneself in the frame of mind to receive a beloved guest, the Sabbath, which the tradition also pictures as a Queen who deserves all the honor we can give her.
I speak about this from personal experience. I am always true to the Sabbath, in my fashion (as the song says)…but it is not easy, only beautiful and right. Here is a poem I wrote about it nearly twenty-five years ago:
A Song of Songs, by Dennis Fischman
I have been a lover to the Queen before.
For me, she set her tender feet
to walking the long road stretching
from yesterday to tomorrow
and I met her halfway
as evening drew a woven shawl around
the bare shoulders of an innocent world
at the fork in the road I stood, singing
“Come, my friend, to meet the bride”
and our twinned flames spurted into falling night.
But now, though she seeks me, I sit
Amongst my books and papers, murmuring
“Not yet: I’m not ready yet,”
Muttering and fidgeting, as if my wordCould hold back the stars.
I have bought no wine, no braided bread—
and here she comes,
laughing, giving voice to song,
“Return us, and we shall return”
and I know
once again, I’ll cajole her with sweet incense
to stay one hour more
and she’ll slip away, whispering“observe” and “remember” in the same short breath.