My Shabbaton Experience
8 years ago Leighest 0
As a child, I grew up not being very religious. I never had a proper Jewish naming. I don’t remember going to synagogue until I was in the first grade; I never actually went to services, I just remember going to classes and them teaching us all the stories in the Torah. When I was in second grade my family and I switched to another synagogue. We only went to shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and I thought it was the most boring thing ever! Every five minutes I would ask my parents when I can leave. On Shabbos they had Hebrew school where they taught us about the Torah and they tried teaching me how to read Hebrew but I could never learn anything past the aleph bais. I always had a feeling that there was something strangely wrong about going to Hebrew school on Shabbos, when I always saw people walking to shul to daven on Shabbos. After two years we decided that that synagogue wasn’t the best and we didn’t go to synagogue for a year. In that one year I felt very disconnected from Judaism and I wanted to do something about it; we didn’t do anything Shabbos related at all Every time there was a Jewish holiday, I didn’t feel that I was in the spirit that I usually am, and I didn’t feel very happy celebrating it; to me, it was just another Jewish holiday.
A year later, one of our family friends was telling us about a synagogue that they thought was a fantastic synagogue. They told us to go to Chabad of Wilmette. My parents were very reluctant at first because we never did anything religious; my parents grew up in the Soviet Union not religious and didn’t know much about Judaism, so I grew up as a little girl not knowing that much about Judaism either. I grew up knowing all the horrible things that happened to Jews in Russia. Anyways, my father decided to go in and talk to the rabbi. My father loved the rabbi and decided to try out a few of his services first. He ran back home and told us that we would be going to a few Shabbat services. My mother and sister went to one service and thought it was so different than the services at our other synagogue and they loved it, so my parents enrolled my sisters and I in the Hebrew school and we loved it! We had so much fun! We learned so much about the Torah that we never knew, we learned how to read and write in Hebrew, we learned about all the Jewish holidays, and something very important that I didn’t know was the Shema. The Shema is so important and I always say it every night before I go to bed.
After a few months of being at Chabad we decided to keep kosher and we started to have a Friday night Shabbat dinner and go to shul every Shabbos (and I still do). I was so happy that we started to become more religious, and every day I started to feel a better and have closer connection with Hashem. A few years later my parents sent my sisters and I to an overnight Jewish camp. I came back with more knowledge about Judaism and feeling incredibly proud of being a Jew. I wanted to shout to the whole world I AM JEWISH!!! After I came back from camp I wanted to keep Shabbat but I didn’t think I had it in me, so I gave up on that. My sophomore year in high school I had an incredible opportunity to go to the International CTeen Shabbaton. My goal was to come back that weekend feeling inspired. I met Jews just like me from all around the world and made amazing friendships. A lot of the rabbis were so nice and helped me learn more about Judaism, and it wasn’t even boring!
On Friday night, when they separated the boys and girls, a lady came in to talk to us and she told us her story. She talked about how she was the most non-religious Jew. She worked as a producer for NBC. She met a few people who inspired her to be more Jewish. She went on a trip to Israel and she went to a few services at synagogue and decided to become an Orthodox Jew. I thought it was so incredible! I went home that night with this feeling, that I wanted to start becoming a little bit more religious. Saturday morning at Shabbat services, they were asking all the teens to make an aliyah for mitzvahs. I wanted to tell them that I wanted to keep Shabbat but I didn’t know if I had it in me. So I told them that I would daven every morning for one month. The next we went to the Rebbe’s resting place and we wrote letters. It was so emotional and I remember just sitting there and thinking that I have been wanting to keep Shabbos for such a long time but every time I thought about how every time I just gave up on myself, but I knew Shabbos was so important. I came back that weekend knowing it was the most inspirational weekend of my life. After the shabbaton, I wanted to keep that inspiration with me and continue to be inspired. I made a pledge to only daven every morning for one month but instead I did it for three.
In August, I was thinking back on the shabbaton and decided that I should keep Shabbat. So in the beginning of August I started walking to shul, rain or shine. Around Rosh Hashanah/ Yom Kippur time I gave up my phone on Shabbos which wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In October I decided to give up using my computer on Shabbos, which was incredibly difficult but I did it! In December I decided I would no longer be turning on and off lights on Shabbos. And in January I decided to not brush my hair on Shabbos. I am so proud of this major accomplishment! The CTeen Shabbaton has changed my life. Because of the inspiration I got from CTeen, I now keep Shabbos. Keeping Shabbos is something that has been so important to me and I feel like a new and improved person. It is truly something that I will cherish forever, and I know there are always ways to become a better Jew, so now I want to start wearing skirts to school (I go to public school) or to start putting mezuzahs in my house. The CTeen shabbaton has impacted my life so much and every single Jew should have the opportunity to go to this incredible, life-changing shabbaton. I am so blessed to have gotten this opportunity. Thank you.