Everybody laughs about the Ten Commandments becoming the Ten Suggestions, but nobody even suggests remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy anymore. And I know why. Shabbat observance smacks of everything that’s wrong with religion.

As someone who started keeping Shabbat only so that my new Torah-observant friends would eat in myIt’s not easy to amuse yourself on Shabbat “I-promise-it’s-scrupulously-kosher" house, I was dragged into Shabbat observance kicking and screaming.

It’s not easy to amuse yourself on Shabbat, especially if there are kids around. For starters, you can’t cook, drive or use electricity. These are just a few of the forbidden acts, which all originate in the 39 melachot, the “creative work” the Jews did when building a portable sanctuary (the Mishkan) so they could worship G‑d in the desert.

I barely know what some of these 39 activities are, such as “winnowing” or “threshing.” I can’t imagine being the slightest bit tempted to do these activities on Shabbat, but you’d be surprised at the daily tasks that are forbidden because they are derived from these melachot. I just know that many years ago when I was locked out of my house one Shabbat day with all my young kids, and I had to entertain them outside until an hour after sundown, when I could open my electric garage door, I understood with new clarity why so many Jews gave up on Shabbat. Because keeping Shabbat is hard.

The lights started to go out on Shabbat observance in America when our ancestors arrived here. They needed to put food on their tables, and most jobs demanded working on Saturdays. Not to mention that their whole reason for coming to America was to escape persecution for being Jewish.

I can tell you that, for me, trying to keep Shabbat all at once is one of those things that actually is as hard as it looks. That is, until you really care about every tiny detail of your relationship with G‑d.

Until you care about every tiny detail of your relationship with G‑d, Shabbat is just a bunch of annoying restrictions. It’s religion. And in those early years, the only thing harder for me than Shabbat was the fact that entire Fridays had to be spent in the kitchen preparing for it—winter, spring, summer and fall.

I thought it would stay difficult like that forever. Twenty-five hours where the main focus was to avoid doing things like accidentally flicking a light switch. (I remember how troubled I was when I learned that we were accountable for the sins we commit inadvertently, albeit less so. I wondered: Is there limited space in heaven?)

It took years for me to learn not to think like that. Don’t forget, I had lived into my adulthood sure of my existence and questioning G‑d’s. My idea of religious Jews was that they were obsessed with these commandments in their excruciating detail in order to propitiate a G‑d who is as scary as He is unseen. They exchanged miserable lives in this world for what they hoped would be a big payoff in the next one. So my thinking went.

My new friends weren’t like that though. They loved being observant Jews. But I didn’t, especially not on Shabbat, when I had to get all those kids ready exactly by the appointed hour. I felt about Shabbat like Cinderella felt about midnight. Shabbat was when bowls piled in the kitchen sink, overflowing with multi-colored muck (also known as Shabbat cereal) gurgling up in a drain I was forbidden to clear with the electric garbage disposal.

But I hung in there, all the while learning Chassidut, trying to wrap my head around the idea that little, tiny me can please G‑d endlessly just by not turning on the light on Shabbat. And by doing all the other mitzvahs, too.

I just had to stop being religious in order to try to bridge the gap between the two of us. Shabbat wasn’t G‑d’s way of calculating special “plusses” and “minuses” for us on a designated day of the week. It was a day for enjoying closeness to Him without worldly distractions. I just had to understand Him better so that my desire for closeness to Him could grow.

This took time, but Shabbat became the day when everything about G‑d seemed more beautiful and profound. It was the day when a flower’s intricacy could inspire me to laugh more with my children. The day when food that always tasted good tasted like Shabbat.

I can tell you unequivocally that now, so many years later, all of Shabbat actually feels different. Maybe it’s that I don’t have to entertain all those kids anymore. Maybe it’s the pleasure I have in knowing that I hung in there for Him, even though it was so hard for me at first. (I realize now the value in taking things slowly.)

Or maybe it’s that IShabbat is G‑d’s favorite day of the week appreciate that Shabbat is G‑d’s favorite day of the week. It’s the day that’s closest to the way life will be for us in the era of Moshiach, when we will perceive G‑dliness effortlessly.

That’s why I have begun trying to light my candles early. Some people say it’s a mitzvah to do this. It’s also my way of showing G‑d that, finally, I want more Shabbat in my life, not less.