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Shabbat Prom Queen

Shabbat Prom Queen

The prom is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some get the thrill every week.


It was the night of the year. Everybody was all dressed up -- girls in their flowing gowns in every imaginable color; guys in their slick tuxes. The four-course meal was of five-star caliber. The best band was playing the latest music. The Senior Prom had arrived!

It seemed like from the beginning of the school year, all anybody could talk about was the prom. It was standard conversation in the hallways, locker room, and cafeteria. So it didn't take long for my classmates to discover that I would not be attending the big event.

Why aren't you going? It'll be the greatest night of your life!

"Why aren't you going?" they would ask. "It'll be the greatest night of your life!" Before I could get my answer in, somebody would always answer for me.

"Don't you remember? She's religious. She doesn't go out on Friday nights."

Well, that's not the response I would have given on my own, but it got a certain point across. It's the point that most of my classmates had drilled into their heads all their lives: Judaism is a restrictive religion that doesn't let you do anything -- especially on Friday nights and Saturdays.

In our early Hebrew school days we learned that on Shabbat we couldn't play our video games or watch our favorite cartoons. As we got a little older we learned that we shouldn't join the town's soccer team because they played on Saturday mornings. Rather, we should attend synagogue and say words out of a book that we couldn't understand for two hours. This is the Shabbat that my classmates and I learned about throughout our years of Hebrew school. It was this mentality that kept us from wanting to have much to do with this religion of rules.


Somehow, during my high school years, I was able to break out of that mindset and I gave Shabbat a shot. The more I learned, the more I saw how wonderful it was. The more I experienced what a real Shabbat involved, the more I realized that it wasn't restrictive at all. Instead of the boring and dull day that I imagined, I found an inspiring and exciting holiday to look forward to every week.

I found that on Shabbat, families and friends would get together to spend quality time with each other. The distractions of video games, cartoons, soccer matches, phone calls, business and the like were removed for the day. The removal of those elements did not feel restrictive at all. It only helped to enhance the experience.

At synagogue, I saw the whole community come together to join in the holiness of the day. It was amazing to see how everybody, young and old, could join as one to say those words that I had once thought were pointless. When I took the time to learn and understand what the prayers actually meant, my synagogue experience drastically changed. The words came alive and melted the past, present and future into one.

Unfortunately, I was the only one of my Hebrew school class who tapped into this. My friends continued to stay as far away from Shabbat and Judaism as they could, due to the bitter taste they still have from earlier in life. No matter how I tried to explain it, or how many times I invited them to try it for themselves, I couldn't get my message through. Their views of Shabbat had been deeply scarred. In their minds, Shabbat wasn’t worth much -- and it was especially not something to miss the prom for!

While my friends from school were having a blast that Friday night, I was doing the same, only a little differently... and better. I too was all dressed up wearing an outfit from my wardrobe specially designated for the day. A gourmet-style feast was served on a beautifully set table. Songs that had been composed ages ago echoed through my soul.

Shabbat had arrived, and I felt like the queen.

May 15, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Anonymous, January 17, 2005 12:00 AM

What a beautiful story. you just left one little part out, which is that the real high school prom can be very ugly... and many of us can attest to that. i just recently started to observe Shabbat and it's become a life changing event in my life. before keeping shabbat and learning about my newfound religion, i was just another lost soul with no true direction or guidance in my life. now that i keep shabbat, i finally have something worth looking forward to at the end of the week. Shabbat surpasses every other day of the week in all respects. its simply beautiful.

(10) Mordecai Drucker, July 4, 2002 12:00 AM

Kiruv is alive in Fair Lawn

Dear Ilana;
I was touched by your article for the following reason:

I am a past Fair Lawn resident who now lives in Jerusalem. I started a "kiruv" school for pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah children. It actually was a part-time "afternoon" school to teach Judiasm to "unaffiliated" youth who did not attend Yeshiva or Hebrew school in the past. We tried to do the exact opposite of your "bad experience" Hebrew School. In my school, the Orthodox Talmud Torah of Fairlawn (OTTF), we showed the students the beauty of Judaism. We took children to skating and swimming (after class), and had Shabbatonim in Fairlawn and Monsey. I even started Pirchei/Bnos of Fairlawn, so that these children could mix with the religious chidren ("FFB). A number of my students enrolled at the Yeshiva of North Bergen, and several families became Shomer Shabbat. I will be coming to Fair Lawn this summmer. If you would like to join forces with me in helping other Fair Lawn children explore their jewish roots, please contact me.

Mordecai Drucker

(9) Liza A, June 23, 2002 12:00 AM

I missed my prom too -- both

Hi, I am 18 and converting to Judaism. Same story over here... I didn't go to prom in my x-school (Catholic) and I couldn't come to a prom in my current science school either because of Shabbos. Somehow, I don't regret. I don't see anything that I would want to exchange the feeling of Shabbos for.

(8) , June 20, 2002 12:00 AM

This article was a lot like my own experience. As I became older, I also began to see shabbat as more "restrictions" than what its true meaning actually is. After I went to Israel two years ago, I started asking questions and learning, and began to see shabbat for what it truly is. I am so thankful that I was finally able to see its beauty. Although it is difficult to explain to people why I can't do things on shabbos, it is VERY rewarding. Have a great shabbos!

(7) Shira Levin, June 19, 2002 12:00 AM

Senior Prom and Shabbat

I am so glad Ilana that you rediscovered
Shabbat. Shabbat is my favorite day of
the week. It is a joy to spend quality
time with first G-d then with friends.
It is so good to get away from TV and the telephone. To concentrate on what is really important. May this coming Shabbat be one of blessing to you. Shira

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