The Sabbath tree

One Sunday, when I was small, I took the bag of havdalah spices and buried it in the back yard. The sun shone down on the spot, and I watered it daily. A tiny stem sprouted, with silken-green leaves, and every day it grew more. By Friday morning it was a sapling taller than I was, with tight buds at the end of its branches. Through the day I checked on it, watching the buds slowly open.

As the sun set, the smell of spices seemed to fill the air. Just as darkness crept into the yard, the flowers opened wide. They had white, glowing petals that curved like shaved cinnamon, with tiny star-anise-shaped patterns within. I sat under the tree all evening and much of the next day, breathing in cardamom and turmeric until the sky darkened again and the petals snowed slowly down.


Cause and effect

Shabbat called me Friday morning. “I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight. You have something planned, right?”

“Wha—I—of course. Of course I have something planned, Shabbat. Why would you even ask?” I looked guiltily around the room, hoping no one would catch me in the lie. A few choice words came to mind while I scanned my contacts, trying to think of anyone who might be free, who would be willing to get together for a last-minute shindig.

That night, after a great meal and in the middle of a lively conversation, Shabbat leaned over to murmur in my ear. “You’re welcome.”

“For what?”

Shabbat gestured around the room.

I frowned. “You think I’m thankful to you for the party that I put together for your benefit?”

The look Shabbat gave me was a little pitying. “Seriously. What would you be doing tonight if it weren’t for me?”



If the collected knowledge of the world were condensed into a single haiku,
Shabbat would be the fleeting and pleasant sound
Of the brush stroking the parchment.

If all eternity were lived in the span of a single day,
Then the magical, liminal moments of dawn and dusk
Would be the eras of Shabbat.

When a table is set with every delicious treat of nature,
Then Shabbat is present
In the laughter and conversation of the diners.

And if all love were collected in a single heart,
One would find Shabbat in the curve of the arm, the sound of the voice,
That significant detail that means “you” to me.


Water balloons

I was walking down the sidewalk, my mind on other things, when a water balloon splashed onto the ground in front of me.

“Hey!” I yelled, jumping back too late to keep my feet dry. From an upstairs window, two freckled, gap-toothed faces grinned down at me. “Purim, cut it out!” I yelled, glaring at the younger child.

“It was her,” Purim said, pointing at his partner in crime. Shabbat nodded, grinning wickedly.

“I think I can guess who came up with the idea,” I muttered, right before another water balloon hit the crown of my head.

“All right, three-pointer!” Purim announced. I wiped water off my face and looked up just in time to see them exchange high fives. Purim handed Shabbat another full balloon, and I started running.