Where does a dot-commer find the energy for Shabbat

It's 6 o'clock on a Friday night and I'm packing up for the day. I shoot off a few work-related e-mails and breathe a sigh of relief. It's been a long week. I plan to attend a Shabbat service and dinner at my synagogue, and I've been looking forward to the event all day.

But just as I gleefully direct my mouse toward the "log off" command, the call comes. A big important story about a big important man at a big important software company needs editing — stat.

As an editor at a company that disseminates technology news and information, I can't exactly ignore big, important news — especially when I'm the only one on my team who hasn't taken off for the weekend. By the time I'm finished cutting, pasting and rewriting, it's nearly 7:30 and I don't have it in me to drive across town, jockey for a parking space and walk into the event two hours late. I head home and plop down on the couch too exhausted to utter "baruch ata adonai."

And thus dissolve my grand plans for a relaxing, rejuvenating Shabbat. Come to think of it, I've practically had an anti-Shabbat — an evening of rushing, fretting and all-around angst. Things turn out OK, as I end up talking on the phone to an old friend and watching those Friday night journalist roundtable shows I'm addicted to. Still, it's not quite the sublime night of spirituality and socializing I'd eagerly anticipated as I edited a story on central processing units earlier in the day.

This is not the first time my Friday night Shabbat plans have gotten interrupted by the demands of the tech world. It's a Murphy's Law: I want to go to services and Steve Jobs gets kidnapped by aliens or the American Medical Association publishes a study declaring that Internet surfing shrinks the cortex.

Sometimes, it feels like the tech world is conspiring against my spiritual life. What's a dot-commer to do? I suppose a dot-commer could ditch the Internet life. But that's not an option for me right now. Despite the fact that working in the Internet is currently about as fashionable as shtetl wear, I love my job. And I plan to stick with it until the pink-slip police show up at the entrance to my cubicle.

It's not as if my Shabbat predicament is unique to the dot-com world. Modern life makes multiple demands on all of us. Which is, of course, the inherent beauty of Shabbat. It offers a weekly oasis, a built-in opportunity to slow down, relax and regenerate spiritually.

Yet enjoying a day of mandated rest often seems counterintuitive when balanced against my lengthy weekend to-do list. I've got the aforementioned "getting out of tech job in time for Friday night services" conundrum. And come Saturday, there's laundry, grocery shopping, a house to be cleaned, a car to be washed. Sometimes Shabbat really conflicts with my type-A personality.

On the other hand, an observant friend of mine with a high-powered corporate job and two teenagers never denies himself the full spectrum of Shabbat. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, he prays, naps, takes leisurely strolls, eats delicious meals and then naps some more. Shabbat, he says, is like his cushion against the stresses of everyday life. He looks forward to it all week and doesn't know how he'd function without it.

Those who haven't experienced the true essence of Shabbat see it as a day of restrictions, my friend says. He sees it as a day of freedom.

My own relationship with Shabbat has been touch and go. As a younger child, I loved it because it meant my mom's insanely delicious brisket and stories from a particularly well-illustrated children's book of Jewish lore. As a preteen, I hated it because I had to stay home for family time rather than go roller-skating with friends. Teenage memories of Shabbat are vague. I do remember a brief Shabbat-observant phase in college that corresponded to a crush on one awfully cute Orthodox boy.

In the ensuing years, my Shabbat observance has been less than consistent — a service here, a dinner there, a Torah study group every now and then. Then last year, I joined a synagogue and started to notice the way Shabbat brings the community together in a spirit of unity somehow distinct from other moments. It is both a time of quiet reflection and warm and leisurely socializing. I began to see in a new way how Shabbat can regenerate a spirit taxed by daily demands.

Now if I could just get off work in time to enjoy it.

Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is a former J. staff writer.