Saturday, September 30, 2006

Alone for a Shabbos

What a strange and solitary Shabbos I had.

The dorms were deserted, except for a few R.As (Resident Assistants) who were on duty. My flight is this Sunday (we bought the tickets very much in advance, and by the time I realized I could potentially leave Thursday night, it would not make sense to change them) so I spent Shabbos by myself.

Alone in my room.

It sounds sad, but it wasn't, not really. First off, it was my own choice. I didn't want to go away for Shabbos and face all the complications of getting back in time to pack and make sure I was up and awake at the ungodly hour I must be tomorrow.

There were meals with the Resident Assistants downstairs in the lobby (bring your own food) and the like, but I didn't really want to leave my room.

My Shabbos started in an interesting matter. It started with my mind battling me, my realization of this, and yet an overwhelming desire to succumb. And yet I didn't.

You see, my roommate has a microwave.

Oh yes, she has a microwave. But she asked that we keep it dairy.

Because she's vegetarian.

So I said yes.

But then comes this Shabbos. And this Shabbos I had cold Chinese takeout food I was keeping in the fridge. No matter what I had bought (kugel and chicken vs. Chinese food, etc), I would have had to eat it cold. And I didn't want to eat sandwiches in honor of Shabbos. So I bought these delicious potstickers and the like, thinking that I would warm them up before Shabbos.

And then, standing in front of the microwave, I remembered that I had promised to keep it dairy, and that I couldn't.

What made this all the more difficult is that I knew that she had started eating meat again, but I also knew that this was conditional- it was because if she didn't eat meat at Stern, she was only going to eat carbs.

And see, here I was, and I realized that she would never know. Because who would tell her? I'm the only one in this room. I could so easily eat warm food, warm tasty food, and she wouldn't know. And would she really care? I'll just make sure that nothing drips over or anything like that. All the food is covered.

My mind tried to talk me around in circles and I can't describe how much I just wanted to put the food in the microwave, warm it up, set it down, and begin my meal. It's a ridiculous thought- most people talk about temptations in terms of sexual desires- but this was my small temptation. Except that it loomed before me, and it really wasn't very small at all.

And a very strange thing gave me courage. And that was that I wouldn't have to bear it all alone. I could tell you, or my parents, or someone, and they would give me approbation and commend me on leaving it be and keeping my promise. But I don't think I could have done it without that. I needed someone to know.

It's so hard, to be all alone and realize you can do anything and nobody will ever know.

So I ate cold Chinese food this Shabbos. Which wasn't so fun.

And I stayed in my room this Shabbos. It was an experience for me, one that I wanted to undergo. I read five or six books, having left my light on. I did not speak aloud, merely concentrated.

And by the time it reached the third meal, I hungered for human contact. For voices. Because it was so eerily quiet.

And it made me think what it would be like to live alone.
I don't just mean in a single in the dorm. After all, in ordinary circumstances there would be a buzz or hum in the hallways, as opposed to the oppressing hush.

I mean really alone. Like a college student, living all alone in an apartment. Or a seperated husband and wife, also in different apartments.

Of course, there's email and telephone service (under ordinary circumstances) but just to experience this Shabbos, where I had absolutely no contact with anybody other than myself (by my own choice) until the third meal, when I went downstairs...really made me think.

And I think I understand now about why we give hospitality to others, and why it is necessary. Because to live in that silence day after day would be too unbearable, too frightening, too disquieting. Even with books.

To come home to nothing, to go out knowing that no one is waiting for you...what does that do to a person? All kinds of things, I would think. Of course, that's why some people stay away. They go to bars, or to restaurants; they spend time with people whenever they can.

I have a new understanding of what it means to be alone, as opposed to being lonely. One can be, as the Rav and many others have written, lonely in a crowd. It is an emotion, a feeling. But just to be alone, all alone, can potentially have strange effects upon someone.

I'm comfortable with myself. The silence was not terrible, and I was absorbed in my books.

But it would be a lie to tell you I didn't smile and give a sigh, almost of relief, when I turned on the radio.


Charlie Hall said...

Congratulations on keeping your word when you could have "gotten away" with not doing so.

Julie VW said...

Beautiful post ~
Thank you for sharing.

Lab Rab said...

Ditto to what Charlie said. Although you might have considered asking permission to reheat with double wrapping.

It seems that you wanted to seize the opportunity to undergo a personal psychological experiment. However, please remember that you (and your friends) are always welcome at shul. We had a huge kiddush for a bar mitzvah and you would have eaten substantially better.

dbs said...

This is from an OU Site:

How is a microwave oven kashered to change the dairy or meat status, or to kasher from non-kosher use? A microwave can be kashered by placing a bowl of water in the oven. The oven is filled with steam by operating the microwave at the highest setting for approximately ten minutes. The bowl is refilled and moved to anotherlocation, and the above procedure is repeated in order to kasher the area where the bowl previously rested. If there is a glass plate on the oven floor, it is preferable to cover or change the plate since it is questionable how the halacha views glass. If the oven surface is plastic there are different opinions whetherkashering is effective, but in case of necessity many poskim follow the lenient view. Kashering between meat and dairy can be done immediately after the previous use, while kashering a non-kosher oven requires a 24-hour downtime. In all instances, kashering must be preceded by a thorough cleanup. As is true of a conventionaloven, kashering can be bypassed (even for a non-kosher microwave) by double wrapping the food.

I think you could have resisted even without getting the affermations from us. Besides, then she would have used it and you would have a treif microwave...okay, I'll shut up now,

Have a G'CH'T!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Chana: If there's anything you should learn in college, it's that cold food isn't that bad :)

Gmar Tov! And kudos for not giving in...

lonely in ny said...


As someone whose only companion is the radio, I can tell you that not being bale to listen on Shabbos makes it unbearable!

Great blog!

HilaHoney said...


Wow. You have a lot of personal strength. Good for you! I am really inspired by you, I hope I can be like that if I am ever in a similar situation. Gmar chatima tova! I will link to your blog, if you don't mind? :-)

Semgirl said...

This is so sad Chana, Im sure there are nice families nearby you can eat by..

I hate loneliness, more then anything..

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. If the oven is actually dairy, reheating meat would make your supper treif.
But if it's double wrapped, the oven is still dairy.

Surely when you said that you'd keep the oven dairy, she didn't mean if the food was double wrapped which doesn't make the oven non-dairy?
Or did you decide not to do that as a precaution.

MY experience with mikes btw is that you have to be very careful with the wrap, as plastic can shrink and pull back - so either seal it very carefully or use an extra layer or two of wrap.