Moment of Clarity

(Alternative Titles: Shabbatwithmeyouknowigotit, The Allure of Shabbat, 99 Problems but Shabbat Ain’t One)

“Set your intention.” – Jay-Z, December 5, 2017, United Center, Chicago, IL

Last month, a friend of mine and I went to the Jay-Z concert at the United Center. I was obviously excited and had high expectations for his solo performance. The Legends of Summer tour (with Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids) and the On The Run show with Queen B, were entertaining and impactful, but this was different. A solo performance meant Jay-Z could do his own thing and the show was epic. Next on the bucket list: Jay-Z at Barclays in Brooklyn. A girl can dream.

Jay-Z is an evergreen artist for me. Whether I’m blasting The Black Album in my car or doing dishes, he’s my go-to. Same goes for if I’m experiencing hardship or celebrating a milestone. As an artist, Jay-Z draws upon his own (deeply personal) life experiences, both formative and traumatic, often most relatable to an audience of which I don’t identify. I don’t always personally relate to the particular issues Jay-Z reflects on; Keeping that in mind, I am still able to recognize the power of his poetry, wit, and storytelling style to all listeners. In that, I find ways to pull my own narrative into his learned lessons, creating a meditative moment as an intent listener. If you have an extra minute (read: hour) to explore Jay and his words, spend it here.

Hova is not a Talmudic scholar. On the seventh day, God decided to rest, not drop American Gangster. Every time I listen to Jay, I find new meaning in his words; Every time I celebrate Shabbat by gathering with friends for a shared meal, I find new meaning in our time together. As time has passed, some of the Jay-Z I’m most familiar with has changed in significance. I’ve grown, leading me to find his tracks insightful in new ways. And again, as time passes, I gain new appreciation for gathering around the Shabbat dinner table. Both Jay-Z and the act of celebrating Shabbat dinner age well, like fine wine.

Now, back to Hova. Towards the end of the show, Jay-Z spoke some wisdom that struck a chord in me. He said, “Set your intention.”

*freeze frame* This is the part where I turned to my friend and yelled “LIKE ON SHABBAT” from the nosebleeds of the United Center. *end freeze frame*

Set your intention. It’s that simple. Jay-Z expressed how important it is for us to remember WHY we hustle hard; he encouraged us to reflect on where we are and why we’re here. And possibly most importantly, to pause and honor the roads we’ve taken to get to the present. How lucky are we, as a Jewish community, to have a similar mentality while we take a deep breath, reconnect and SET OUR INTENTION on Friday nights? How lucky are we, to be living in the same era as Jay-Z?

And if you’re not into Jay-Z, that’s fine. But who do you appreciate as an artist and how might they inspire you to look at things differently? Now, apply that same shift in perception to what you’re doing with your time. How might you shift your Friday nights to reset, recharge, and reflect on your journey and community? You don’t have to be a scholar to find connection to intention. All you need you need in this world of sin, is you and your good friends. Try it out around the Shabbat dinner table.

PS – In “Moment of Clarity,” the opening line is “Thank God for granting me this moment of clarity, this moment of honesty.” COINCIDENCE THAT THE SAME CAN BE APPLIED TO SHABBAT? Probably. But I’m going to run with it.

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