One of my baalas teshuva buddies told me an insightful story about her journey to full observance. When she first began learning about what it means to be a Jew, she hit a roadblock. She was quite a hippy girl; in fact a die-hard Dead-head, one of those groupies who had to hear every Grateful Dead concert. The music went along with drugs and immorality usually, just a whole-environment-atmosphere of “letting loose”. Not very conducive to Orthodox lifestyle. However, once this girl experienced Shabbos for the first time, she was hooked on Shabbos and made a commitment to herself that come-what-may Shabbos she would keep.
Ah, but that is when her two interests converged. The Grateful Dead was playing a concert on Shabbos and she didn’t want to miss it. With a lot of coordination and ingenuity, she and a group of friends took a hotel room near the concert site, spoke to concert organizers and managed to arrange to attend the concert with prepaid tickets. Seems she would be able to both honor her commitment to keep Shabbos and hear her favorite band play. The best of both worlds, or so she thought.
Yet, one thing remained a problem. Since it was Shabbos, she didn’t smoke a joint before heading to the concert. Her drug access was out because smoking on Shabbos was a no-no. And, in an ironic reality moment, this girl discovered that cold-stone-sober she didn’t enjoy the Grateful Dead music. Seems hearing it without the haze of drugs took the glamour off the music and left it just noisy and jarring. Her road to full observance was quick and easy after that moment.
Someone once confided in me that her husband was intrigued by neighbors who were claiming to have a “blast” in the nightclubs. I told her to tell him that if those folks need alcohol to enjoy their time in the nightclub, it probably ain’t that much fun. I point this out often to teens. When folks are partying and claiming to have such a good time, why the need for drugs and booze? A good time means the moment is fun. It doesn’t have to be dulled or ramped up with substance. The other thing party animals do is scream and say, “wow, aren’t we having fun?!” as if to give truth to the lie they are saying. If you have to convince yourself with those statements, trust me, you aren’t having such a great time.
I loved flying (in those little bi-planes). I didn’t need booze to enjoy it. Didn’t have to scream out the plane window, “weee, its fun, man.” I enjoy my family. I don’t need a joint to make it enjoyable. It just is.
And here is where we come to a problem. Many in our generation forgot how to savor and enjoy, really taste and take pleasure, out of the Mitzvos. Rabbi Lazer Brody tried to talk to one such crowd, but, unfortunately, the crowd was too full of booze to hear anything beyond the haze of their brains. And so, Rabbi Lazer Brody gave them a Bracha, which I repeat to all of us, far and wide, “may you someday learn to enjoy Shabbos and Yom Tov without having to resort to booze.”
May we all be able to taste Shabbos this week, undiluted, pure and enjoyable.