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I really want to keep Shabbat but I'm finding it very difficult...

I really want to keep Shabbat but I'm finding it very difficult...



I really want to keep Shabbat but I'm finding it very difficult. I'm a smoker, so that's a big hurdle, and not answering the phone or turning on lights is also tough. Any tips?


Like with anything else in life, it is so important to proceed step by step. We cannot begin lifting heavy weights if we have never exercised with weights, we would just damage our muscles and hurt ourselves. The same is true on a spiritual level, we cannot begin doing it "all at once" because we risk falling back and becoming depressed when our unrealistic goals haven't been realized.

I would suggest a two-pronged approach:

Firstly, set aside a specific time during Shabbat when you will fully observe all the Shabbat rules. Perhaps an hour or two while the candles are burning brightly Friday night. During this time, make sure you don't turn on the lights, answer the phone, smoke, etc. It's just an hour or two, you should manage... During this time, make sure to enjoy and take in the beauty and holiness of the Shabbat—eat a special dinner with family and friends, recite the special blessings or prayers, sing the special Shabbat songs—go all out to really allow yourself to fully experience its beauty. In all likelihood you will be so busy enjoying the beauty of the Shabbat, you won't have the time to even notice that anything else is missing.

Secondly, from the get-go, choose specific things that you will not do the entire Shabbat. For example, set up electronic timers to automatically turn off and on the lights in your home—so that you won't need to turn off/on any lights. Choose a few of these things that you will observe the entire Shabbat.

Try to grow in either of these two areas from week to week—by either increasing the amount of time you keep Shabbat fully, or by increasing the list of things that you won't do on Shabbat.

But equally important is to make sure you include in your day the special parts of Shabbat, those holy moments and special prayers and reflection. Do you have a Chabad House near you? That's really one of the best ways to experience and enjoy a really beautiful Shabbat!

Chana Weisberg for

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Joseph Souther Highlands November 13, 2016

Thanks Hana. You're reply to the last comment will help me as I have exactly the same situation as the above person. Reply

Julie Phoenix June 30, 2015

Glad you wrote this. I truly want to observe shabbat. My family growing up did not-and I have my own family but no relatives in town. So I'm alone with my family-my son is a big help and enjoys the ritual lighting candles and prayer. We've never made it all night yet-really want to do sundown to sundown. Feel as if I am disappointing G_d with my shortcomings not honoring the Sabbath. I almost feel like it's ok to do it in little steps now. :D TY Reply

Shaul Wolf December 28, 2014

Re: Heating A wood stove may be used on Shabbat, provided that all of the wood in the stove has caught fire before Shabbat. It should therefore be lit with ample time prior to Shabbat for all of the wood to catch fire. The reason for this is because we are concerned that if the wood has not yet caught fire one may come to stoke the flame on Shabbat, which is equivalent to lighting a fire. No wood may be added to the fire on Shabbat, so you would have to put in enough wood to last the entire Shabbat (if that is at all possible). Reply

shimon russo Underwood,Wa December 25, 2014

Heating the home with wood on Shabbat Our only means of heat is through our wood stoves.
We want to bring the keeping of Shabbat into our lives, but during cold winter months (very cold in our area), we don't see how we can keep this part of the observance,
Can you give us some advice? Reply

Yohanon February 20, 2008

Difficulty keeping Shabat Well put.
I used to smoke, but Friday night until "3 stars" Saturday I had no urge to light up.

As you hinted, the key is to keep busy . . . walking to services with the family, participating as much as possible in the service, hanging around after for kiddish (luncheon if at a Chabad house) - chatting with others after services all help make the time pass.

In the end, at motze Shabat I decided if I could give up smoking for 25 hours I might as well give it up for good. I guess you could say that Shabat helped me be a quitter <g>. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY January 31, 2008

the kosherlamp I find the kosher lamp to be a very big help.
My children are not afraid to go into their room now that it's lit up with the lamp. Reply

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