For many years, but especially during the pandemic, my partner and I celebrated Shabbat every week and all the Jewish holidays. Now that we broke up, I’m finding it hard to do something as basic as lighting Shabbat candles, which means so much to me but is causing me so much pain. What do I do?
Alone on Shabbat
It turns out that a year is long enough to develop a whole lot of routines and habits. And in a relationship longer than a year, those patterns become so entrenched that it’s nearly impossible to imagine any other way of doing things. You’re now in a position of ending a relationship while the pandemic is ongoing; your routines are upended in multiple ways and there’s no other “normal” to go back to. It is a sad and difficult situation, and I’m sorry.
First, give yourself a break. This might mean a literal break from lighting candles or from your typical Shabbat routine. It might mean a more metaphorical or spiritual break, where you don’t hold yourself to your own standards for “keeping it together” or moving forward like everything’s fine or observing all the holidays the way you’re used to. Maybe you light candles and cry, or eat Shabbat dinner in comfy pajamas on the couch.
Whatever it is, give yourself permission just to feel how you feel, experience the rituals however they feel and to forgo them if you can’t bring yourself to do it.
Second, consider how you can make connections with old friends, new communities or really anyone outside of your home, especially on Shabbat and holidays. Sure, it’s not what you’re used to, but going on Zoom with a friend to light candles isn’t that much stranger than everything else we’ve moved online. If it fits with your Shabbat practice, find a community that streams services that you enjoy on Friday night so you feel surrounded by community. You can also organize friends online to eat dinner “together” so you’re not alone on Friday nights.
Finally, what new traditions can you create, whether with friends or on your own? Are there foods or songs or traditions that your partner didn’t connect to? Maybe there are elements of your previous single life that you’d put off to the side that you can revisit now on your own. Maybe you welcome Shabbat with a new private prayer or intention, or a walk in your neighborhood.
As we move into the next phase of the pandemic and you move into the next phase of your life, this is an appropriate time for routines to shift, and for you to be open to what these traditions will look like for you moving forward.