Title of a song I listened to growing up my Billie Myers.
This past Shabbat my daughter and I took a puddle walk. We thought we were going after the big rain to hunt for puddles to jump in. Little did we know there was more rain to come! We enjoyed puddle jumping as well as our walk through the water-glazed forest. As usual, our destination ended up being the playground at the end of one of the nature trails. And as usual, my daughter wanted me to push her in the swing. It was pouring, but I was like, whatever!
I asked her if she minded if her tushy got wet, since I hoped her raincoat would stay covering her bum, but assumed it probably wouldn’t. So I pushed her in the rain for a while. A bit later on, she stuck out her tongue to catch some rain drops. And I followed suit.
Now, if we didn’t observe the rule to not use an umbrella on Shabbat, I’m not sure we would have willy-nilly used the swing in the rain. But even though it was Shabbat, my daughter is still three, so entertain her we must!
There are a lot of nuances in the Jewish law (aka halacha). The reason I learned for why we are not supposed to use an umbrella is because it is similar to pitching a tent, and that is not allowed on Shabbat. The nuances in Jewish law are so freakin’ complex—leading some to dedicate their careers to its study and others to throw it away entirely, or even partially.
As I pushed my daughter on the swing, the rain coming down on us, I wondered to myself, “Did G-d create these focacta rules to just give us a reason to be closer to him?”
After all, not using an umbrella allowed us to be closer to the natural elements. We literally, to quote another, more recent song, ‘felt the rain on our skin.’ (Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten)—well at least on our faces—we were wearing raincoats!
And G-d is in nature.
So connecting to the natural elements is, in a sense, an avenue with which we can connect with G-d.
Maybe, G-d was like, “Hmm, what can I do to encourage them not to use umbrellas on the Day of Rest?…I could outlaw it completely! Just straight out say ‘Don’t use an umbrella!’ Nah, Nah, Nah. I’ve got a better idea. I’m gonna say it in code, so they have to ponder and think about it. That way, it will take them time to figure it out. They will be busy figuring it out, which will keep them from having more time to be frivolous—after all, idle hands are the devil’s workshop (is there a devil?…Ok, that’s a whole other topic…)
Yeah, yeah. This is good. So I’ll give them something to chew on. The process will bring them closer to me. And then, drum roll please…their conclusion will bring them closer still!”
So there we were, swinging in the rain (ok, now that’s a third rain song reference, Frank Sinatra), feeling connected to the natural elements and to G-d.
And it reminded me of that story my mother oft-told me growing up of how she first discovered the power of Shabbat.
She was on a hike in Israel. She was offered to take the jeep up the mountain with her peers, but she decided to observe the Shabbat rule of not driving in a car and she stuck to walking. As the hike came to a close, she felt a deep awareness of G-d. And looking back, she thought if she had gone in the truck, she may not have had such a vivid connection.
So while I didn’t appreciate getting quite wet on our walk home (it raineth even more!!), I did appreciate those moments in the playground.