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God Is My Traffic Cop

I keep getting messages from God about driving on the Sabbath, so I’m going give it up—for one Saturday

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But my biggest problem with me promising to give up driving on Shabbat—and this applies to all facets of my Jewish observance—is that I have an extremely short attention span, being prone to temptation and backsliding on my resolutions. I am an observant Jewish soul in the body of a discipline-challenged flake. For example, when I was a student living in Jerusalem, it was easy not to drive on Shabbat because the buses didn’t run. But in Tel Aviv, taxis were everywhere, and so I used them at will. I’ve kept kosher for long stretches of time but have repeatedly fallen off the wagon, my resolve vanishing faster than the In-N-Out burger I once guiltily devoured during finals week in grad school when I was too sleep-deprived to walk across campus to the dining hall for a vegetarian salad. I believe in (most) Jewish laws—I just have a habit of breaking them. I can’t promise to give up driving on Shabbat forever, because I know I won’t be able to keep that promise for long.

Of course, anybody reading this will surely say, “Oh, she’s letting herself off the hook too easily.” Or maybe they’ll say I’m being paranoid, needlessly berating myself because of some ridiculous, half-baked notion that God or the Torah Police or the California Highway Patrol or the ghosts of my long-dead frum ancestors are trying to teach me a lesson. It’s quite possible that none of these entities—ethereal or human—expect anything of me. What’s become clear, though, is that I expect more of me.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all those Al-Anon meetings that I drive to every Saturday, it’s that attempting grandiose changes in life rarely works—at least for me. When it comes to my level of Jewish observance, making small commitments and then renewing them is going to be easier than making big ones that seemed doom to fail. And so, I’ve made a decision, one that communicates to God that I’ve received his supernatural dispatch and (despite prior failed attempts) am willing to once again test the limits of my fledgling self-discipline: I’m going to make a promise not to drive on Shabbat this weekend. Just this once. I’m going to grant myself a 25-hour reprieve from stop signs, intersections, and traffic jams. I’m going to turn in my car keys and instead stretch my legs. Maybe I won’t make it an entire 25 hours. Or maybe it’s not as difficult as I think, and if I can do it once, I can do it again, and again—and God will stop sending me all those warnings. Maybe, like anything else we want to achieve, it’s ultimately about doing it one step at a time.


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Saint_Etienne says:

Thank you for a humorous and uplifting piece.

curious–how did it go for “just one Shabbos”

Every time you walk to shul on shabbos you are doing a mitzvah – kol hakavod!

I liked this piece a lot, especially the fact that the author was very honest with herself. I don’t get that feeling a lot in articles that I read. I am an Orthodox guy living in Israel, and even though I keep Shabbat, I identified with the dilemmas of the author regarding keeping certain Mitzvot. Looking forward to hearing the continuation.

ednastvincent says:

The best part of this article is the “gateway mitzvah”. I think lots of people who might like to “try on” doing more mitzvot feel like they have to stop themselves before they start because they’re afraid it will get too weird. I hope the non-driving shabbat was a success but regardless, thanks for a realistic and funny article.


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God Is My Traffic Cop

I keep getting messages from God about driving on the Sabbath, so I’m going give it up—for one Saturday

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