When Shabbat Prep and Observance Becomes a Headache

This past Friday I found myself suffering from a migraine. Now, migraines have become a part of my life. Actually, they have been a part of my life since I was a teenager, but with the onset of perimenopause, they have become – unfortunately – almost a constant companion. I’ve been tracking them to prove they are hormonally induced – and not sugar induced (God forbid I should have to give up sugar…), and this week I noticed something interesting. I suffered a migraine for three Fridays in a row!
Well, what’s with that? Here I am writing about and researching Shabbat observance and the most special day of the week arrives – Friday night and Saturday – and I come down with a wicked headache. Because they tend to cluster a bit, or just not go totally away, if I get one on Friday afternoon, I’m sure to still have some semblance of it on Saturday.

Now, I know that headaches can be caused by stress and by not saying or doing what you want, but I’m spending most of my time writing about a subject that excites and itnerestes me. But I am stressed to meet my proposal deadline…to work in the short amount of time I have each day, pick up and drive kids, handle household issues, make dinner, etc. But even it the headaches are stress induced, why would I have them on Shabbat, when I am supposed to be unstressed, relaxed, peaceful, connected?

With my work so focused on observing Shabbat, I think I stress out about doing the priestess thing and really taking time to clean and prepare and cook – to create the sacred space – and then to create a really spiritual and meaningful Shabbat experience for myself and my family. But guess what? Most weeks, especially most recently, I don’t have time!

Ack! So, I’m reminding myself — and anyone out there reading this post – that it’s okay to just do what you can on Shabbat. Throw a table cloth over the table and put the candles on it. Set the table, and then serve a store bought meal. We like to buy a rotisserie chicken, cook some rice pilaf or couscous and throw some frozen green beans on to cook. If I don’t get to bake the challah – hot challah is my favorite part of the first meal of Shabbat – I pick up a store-bought one and warm it in the oven. Throw a few bottles of chilled sparkling grape juice on the table, and I’m set.

The trick then, is to take just a few moments to prepare for the candle lighting. Let the week go…take some deep breaths…then, with intention to invite the Shechinah and deliberate, conscious actions light the candles and then circle your hands around the flames. Imagine that you are bringing the light and energy of God into your home and allowing it to surround you. Imagine that you are beckoning the Shechinah to pass through the doorway you have created — the space between the two candles – and then imagine feeling her warm embrace as you welcome her into your home.

Guess what! You’ve created a sacred space and transformed what could have been an empty ritual – one rushed through without thought or meaning – into not only a meaning-full one but a spirit-full one as well.

So, this coming Friday I’ll remind myself that this is all I need to do to be a priestess over my Friday night candle lighting ritual. I’ll give myself permission to not add more stress to my life. And, in so doing, I’ll add a little extra peace and rest to my Shabbat experience as well.

1 thought on “When Shabbat Prep and Observance Becomes a Headache”

  1. Hello Nina, just read about your migraines on Shabbat. I too wake up most Saturday mornings with migraine. But I suspect not only stress (because of being amongst many people) but also because of the foos on Friday night. Bread, wine, legumes and nightshades are not on my normal menu. But eating with somebidy elae on Shabbat, I cannot avoid it. So good to know I am not the only one suffering as a result of wanting to obswrve Shabbat.

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