January 16, 2019

Shabbat Saves Me From Myself

Place settings from OneTable Shabbat.

I sit at my computer 10 hours a day. I check my work email on the weekends and even put in some extra time on Sunday. 

I work in bed and on vacation. I work on airplanes and in cars. I work wherever there is Wi-Fi.   

I take on much more than I can handle, and my main source of anxiety is work.

I’m a workaholic.

But I wasn’t always so self-aware. 

At the end of 2017, I’d officially been freelancing for seven years. I was sick of the constant ups and downs and
financial instability. So, I got a full-time, 9-to-5 office job. 

Instead of simply focusing on the job — which, unfortunately, didn’t turn out to be the best fit — I worked eight hours a day, then came home and worked up until bedtime every night. I also worked on weekends, except for Shabbat. 

“I’ve learned that work will always be there. But I only have one chance to live a fulfilling life.”

After a few months of this, I was drained. I’d stopped going to the gym, was waking up tired every day and felt like I was in a fog. 

I thought I was working for practical reasons, like being able to pay the bills and feel financially stable. It helped a little bit with those things, but mostly, I was doing it because I am a work addict. 

My husband, Daniel, noticed how unhappy I was during this time. He told me I was a workaholic. I scoffed at first and then took to Google to see if he was right. I looked at a Workaholics Anonymous checklist and, of course, I had every single trait. 

“Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?” Check. “Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard all the time, you will lose your job or be a failure?” Check. “Have your long hours caused injury to your health or relationships?” Check. “Do you think about work or other tasks while driving, conversing, falling asleep or sleeping?” Check. 

I knew what I had to do. As a faithful Jewess, I turned to HaShem, because even when I was overworking myself, I found 25 hours of peace every week thanks to Him. 

I prayed and prayed for a steady remote opportunity throughout the High Holy Days last year. I was desperate to break my bad habits. 

As soon as I turned on my phone after the last chagim, I had a job offer waiting in my inbox. I promptly quit my job and switched back to telecommuting. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let my workaholism control me anymore. 

I know why I work so much. It’s to avoid loneliness and negative thoughts. Also, our society emphasizes 24/7 work. We put not sleeping enough, taking on extra hours and checking your work email at nights and on the weekends on a pedestal. It’s a trap. I’ve learned that it’s very radical to observe Shabbat nowadays, which is sadly so backward. 

I know that if I didn’t do Shabbat, I’d be working on Friday nights and Saturday. But by setting that boundary for myself to turn off my devices and just rest, and doing it because I believe in a higher power, I’ve been able to “stay sane inside insanity.” Shabbat saves me from myself. 

Now, I am focusing on self-care. I sleep at least seven hours a night, go to the gym every day, eat a mostly plant-based diet and pray daily. I’ve also incorporated some of my Shabbat practices into my weekdays. I turn off my phone about an hour before I go to bed and keep it in another room so I don’t check it first thing in the morning. Instead, when I wake up, I say my morning prayers.  

I’ve learned that work will always be there. But I only have one chance to live a fulfilling life. I don’t want to look back when I’m old and say, “I turned in a lot of really great articles and made all my deadlines!” I want to be able to say, “I had a great life, full of love and meaningful moments.” 

Thanks to HaShem, I think I’ll be able to get there. Anyway, I’m working on it.

Kylie Ora Lobell is a contributing writer to the Jewish Journal.

A Helping Hand

Yesterday as my son was leaving the house, he noticed a small bee sitting on the wall by the door. He didn’t pay too much attention to it as he was heading out, but when he returned about 30 minutes later, he saw the bee was still there. He wondered if it was dead, and took a closer look. The poor thing was alive, but clinging to the wall and clearly in some kind of distress, so my son decided to help.

He came into the house, got a tablespoon, added sugar and water, and went back to the bee. The poor little thing got on the spoon and began to drink the sugar water. It was truly amazing. I stared at this wonderful little creature, and also at my remarkable son, with awe. He held the spoon steady as the bee drank, then slowly moved the spoon to the counter so it would be still and the bee could drink calmly.

Charlie then took the bee back outside, set it on the ground, and left it there.  When he went back a little while later, there was no bee on the spoon. A bee was buzzing around, and he couldn’t know if it was the same bee, but I’d like to think it was. He hung around to let my boy know he was alright and thank him for his kindness. It was a beautiful exchange between man and animal. I have attached a video of the sweet, little bee drinking below.

There are humans who are simply unworthy of animals, then there are people like my son, who are blessed with love and respect for animals. I am touched by the kindness my son shows to all living things. He is a good man and yesterday not only did I know it, but so did a lovely little bee. Have a great weekend everyone. Shabbat Shalom. Show kindness and know that animals are also just trying to keep the faith.


‘The Possession’ possesses the box office

“The Possession” is off to a devilishly good start at the box office, grossing $21.3 million — making it the second best opening for a movie on Labor Day weekend after “Halloween” in 2007, which brought in $30.6 million. Based on the dybbuk, a malevolent Jewish spirit, and the film “The Exorcist,” it features Matisyahu in his big screen debut and Kyra Sedgwick. The film tells the story of a young girl (Natasha Calis) who buys a mysterious box at a yard sale, unaware that inside lives an ancient spirit. Despite the box office success, “The Possession” received mixed reviews, scoring only 39 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes Fresh scale, but performing better with critic Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.

Related: Hollywood dybbuk invades suburbia

Calendar Picks and Clicks: May 19-25, 2012

SAT | MAY 19

Days after the election that brings Hitler to power, a Jewish couple — an acclaimed physicist and his unfaithful wife — contemplate whether to seek an unknown future outside of Germany or stay put in Berlin. Written by playwright Iddo Netanyahu, brother of Israel’s prime minister, directed by Ami Dayan, and featuring award-winning actor Bruce Davison, this staged reading is the play’s West Coast premiere. Part of the California International Theatre Festival. The Museum of Tolerance hosts an additional performance on May 21. Sat. 8 p.m. Free (first come, first served). Founder’s Hall, 100 Civic Center Way, Calabasas. (818) 783-3576. citfestival.org.

SUN | MAY 20

Gardening, yoga and exercise workshops, hikes and a “Mikveh Tent” for rejuvenating foot soaks and hand massages highlight The Big Jewish Tent’s mind-body-Torah Shavuot festival. Pay a little extra and enjoy horseback rides, full-body massages and more. Sun. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. $99-$259. Shalom Institute, 34342 Mulholland Highway, Malibu. (818) 889-5500. bigjewishtent.com.

Jewish World Watch holds its sixth annual Walk to End Genocide, a three-mile walk to raise awareness about human rights abuses. During registration and after the walk, visit the Action Festival, which features information and advocacy booths, arts and crafts, music, food trucks and more. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Free (general registration). Pan Pacific Park, 7600 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 501-1836. jewishworldwatch.org.

Today’s symposium explores the role Jews have played in reshaping the racial landscape of Southern California, from relations with Chinese-Americans in the 19th century to Mexican-Americans in the 20th century. Panelists include Philip Ethington, professor of history and political science at USC; Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, executive director of Hillel at UCLA; and Karen Wilson, a UCLA doctoral student. Todd Presner, professor of Germanic languages, comparative literature and Jewish studies at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, moderates. A discussion among the speakers and a Q-and-A follow. Sun. 3-6 p.m. Free (reservations required). Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 267-5327. cjs.ucla.edu.

Carl Davis conducts the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in a performance of his new score for the 1920 “thrill” comedy, “High and Dizzy,” starring Harold Lloyd as an intoxicated doctor who must rescue a sleepwalking patient from a skyscraper ledge.  The orchestra also performs Davis’ original score for Lloyd’s 1927 film, “The Kid Brother.” Sun. 6:30 p.m. $35-$80. Royce Hall, UCLA Campus, Los Angeles. (213) 622-7001. laco.org.

TUE | MAY 22

Broad, founder of SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home and a philanthropist who heads foundations holding more than $2 billion in assets, appears in conversation with Los Angeles Times editor-at-large Jim Newton to discuss his new book, “The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking.” Broad, who funds scientific research and education reforms, has built some of the great contemporary art museums. Tonight, he shares how being “unreasonable” led him to extraordinary success. Tue. 7 p.m. Free (stand-by reservations only). Los Angeles Central Library, Mark Taper Auditorium, 630 W. Fifth St., downtown. (213) 228-7500. lfla.org.

WED | MAY 23

Valley Beth Shalom’s inaugural writers roundtable brings together professional writers to inspire imaginative, bold storytelling reflecting on the condition of contemporary Jewish life. Featured speakers include Sarah Goldfinger (“Grimm,” “CSI”), Universal Television story editor Michael Halperin, Jewish World Watch playwright-in-residence Stephanie Liss, Jamie Pachino (“Fairly Legal”), Lynn Roth (“The Paper Chase”) and Rhonda Spinak, Jewish Women’s Theatre artistic director. Rabbi Ed Feinstein hosts. Wed. 7:30 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000. vbs.org.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and champion swimmer discusses his struggles and achievements, his work in the community and the secrets for his success during a reception hosted by Federation young adult groups Ru-Ju-LA (Russian Jewish Young Adults of Los Angeles) and YALA (Young Adults of Los Angeles). Mingle with other young adults at an opening wine and cheese reception. Wed. 7:30 p.m. $15. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8372. yala.org

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Mar. 24-30, 2012


Soulful Yemenite singer Achinoam Nini, aka Noa, has experimented with folk, rock, Arabic pop and more during her 20-year career. Tonight, she performs classic Israeli songs, such as “Hayu Leilot” “Mayim Rabim” and “Ruach Stav,” from her latest release, “The Israeli Songbook,” with a mix of Middle Eastern and Latin percussion. Sat. 8 p.m. $20 (general) $15 (UCLA students). Royce Hall, UCLA Campus, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101. uclalive.org.


What happens at TribeFest stays at TribeFest. More than 1,500 young adults (ages 22-45) from across the nation converge on Las Vegas for a three-day conference exploring social justice, Israel, faith, culture and innovation. Speakers address such topics as “From Bernstein to Beasties: The American Jewish Music Experience,” “Jewish Vote in 2012,” “Pitchfest! Jewish Stories Go Hollywood” and “Meet the Change: Jews Battling Hunger.” A clergy track and a Leadership Development Institute also available. Entertainment includes appearances by Moshav, Aya Korem, DJ Diwon, Hatikva 6 and Kosha Dillz. Sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America. A party for TribeFest participants hosted by The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas at the Venetian’s Tao precedes the event on Saturday night. Sun. Through March 27. 3 p.m.-midnight. $499 (not including hotel accommodations). Venetian Sands Expo Center and various locations. (888) 889-6406 (registration and housing). tribefest.org.

Knitters of all experience levels participate in an afternoon of stitching, done Jewish style. Twenty-something knitting maven Jenni Romano teaches and provides yarn for beginners. The group meets at Michaels Arts and Craft Store in Encino and then goes to a patio, Starbucks or a park to knit. Ages 21-39 only. Sun. 3-6 p.m. Free (bring $5-$10 for beginner needles). Michaels Arts and Crafts Store, 17230 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 835-2139. valleyruach.org.

Journal contributor Sonenshein, the executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, discusses the 2012 elections. He examines “The Republican Challenge to President Obama,” “Issues Central to the Campaign” and “Role of and Impact on the Jewish Community.” Sun. 10:30 a.m. (lecture), noon (kosher luncheon), 1 p.m. (Q-and-A). $20 (Ameinu and Na’amat USA members), $30 (general). Institute of Jewish Education, Library, 8339 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (323) 655-2842.


Discuss Sephardic Passover traditions, customs and halachot with Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, director of the Sephardic Educational Center. Tue. 7-10 p.m. Free (RSVP by March 26 and bring photo identification). The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 272-4574. RSVP to sharon@secjerusalem.org.


The comic and author discusses his recently released memoir, “Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy From Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16.” In the book, Kasher traces his journey from troubled youth to up-and-coming comedian. Kasher also appears at Book Soup on March 30. Wed. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes & Noble, The Grove at Farmers Market, 189 Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. barnesandnoble.com.


Stories of Jewish immigration, identity and intermarriage are told in home movies. The lives of ordinary families unfold on three giant screens, exploring the dynamic interplay between personal memories and collective history and focusing on Jews in the West. Features an online multimedia archive compiled by The Labyrinth Project, an art collective at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Attendees can add their own family stories and images to this ever-growing exhibition. Thu. Through Sept. 2. Noon-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday-Sunday). Included with museum admission: $10 (general), $7 (seniors and full-time students), $5 (children, 2-12), free (members and children under 2), free (to all on Thursdays). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

The stand-up comedian and podcaster (“WTF With Marc Maron”) brings his thought-provoking, honest and frequently laugh-out-loud act to The Ice House. Thu. 8 p.m. $20 (two-drink minimum not included). Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. (626) 577-1894. icehousecomedy.com.

A Belated Wedding Present

The ad caught our eye: an all-expense paid Shabbatweekend at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute for couples married withinthe past 18 months. I had been to Brandeis before, so I knew that, ifnothing else, my husband, Neal, and I would experience a tranquilShabbat in a beautiful setting.

The weekend program was the brainchild of RabbiAlvin Mars, executive vice president of the institute, who identifiednewly married couples as a population for whom no programming existedwithin the Jewish community. Mars designed a program to enable thesecouples to meet others like themselves within a Jewish context, andhe obtained funding to hold three pilot sessions in 1997 through theCotsen Family Foundation. The weekends were so well-received that thefoundation agreed to fund five sessions annually over the next threeyears as the Cotsen Institute for Newly Married Couples.

The program’s goals are simple: to provide apositive experience within a Jewish framework and to give couples achance to meet and befriend other Jewish couples. The onlyrequirements are that couples be married within the past 18 months,and that the marriage be performed by a rabbi.

“That is the only program of its kind in the worldthat I am aware of,” says Mars. “This isn’t a case of couplesprojecting how things might be once they are married,” he says.Instead, participants examine their marriage as it currently exists,and explore how they want it to be.

Our weekend, held March 6-8, drew 32 couples, mostin their 20s and 30s, and a few in their 40s. There were severalsecond marriages, at least three expectant couples, and one with a6-month-old baby at home. Three couples trekked up from San Diego toparticipate.

When it comes to Shabbat, Brandeis-Bardin has amagical effect: Once you pass through the gates and drive downPeppertree Lane, you feel truly removed from the commotion and stressof everyday life. The 3,000 acres, exceptionally green after recentrains, offer beautiful vistas and lots of opportunities for hiking.The newly constructed meeting and dining complex, completed followingthe 1994 Northridge earthquake, only adds to the appeal.

Our formal program began with Shabbat services.According to Mars, BBI seeks to be “an entry for the entire Jewishpeople,” and staff are careful to present Judaism in a welcoming,non-threatening manner. The institute even has its own prayer bookand unique melodies so that observant and nonaffiliated Jews alikeare “equally uncomfortable.”

At dinner, which was surprisingly tasty, couplesbegan getting to know one another. As my husband observed,newly-marrieds are like a fraternity of sorts, and we gleefullyswapped details about when and where we had gotten married, where wehoneymooned and how we’d heard about this weekend.

Shabbat morning services were led by Rabbi ScottMeltzer, scholar-in-residence, who used the Torah portion’sdiscussion of the tabernacle to make an analogy to the new home eachcouple was establishing. My husband and I have made a commitment toincorporating Jewish practice and ritual in our home, and RabbiMeltzer’s comments made me feel good about the patterns we had begunto set.

The welcoming atmosphere and spectacular settingbegan to have its effect, as couples became more relaxed and lessinhibited. We found ourselves doing things we might not do in thereal world, such as singing songs arm-in-arm or trying Israelidancing for the first time. Even the fact that cabins were furnishedwith twin beds became an ongoing source of humor.

As the program continued, couples were invited togather in sets of three to share stories of how they met. Later,couples discussed privately their individual values and how theywished to translate those values as a new family unit.

Neal and I had taken a “Making Marriage Work”seminar before our wedding, so we had discussed many of the topicsraised over the course of the weekend. For some couples, however, thesessions provided an opportunity to cover new territory. But if Nealand I didn’t discover any earth-shattering revelations about ourrelationship, we nevertheless fulfilled the program’s goals: Wereaffirmed and clarified our feelings about building a Jewish homeand met some couples whom we plan to contact in the future. We alsogot to enjoy the clean air, take brisk walks and spend time focusingon one another.

“I hope every couple that gets married will take[the weekend] as a gift from the Jewish community,” says Meltzer.It’s a gift that any couple could appreciate.

The next weekend for newly married couples will beheld in the fall. For more information, call Rabbi Scott Meltzer atthe Brandeis-Bardin Institute at (805) 582-4450.