It is interesting that it took a snowstorm to turn New York City into Jerusalem on a Friday evening.
Like many people who have spent time in Jerusalem, one of things I love the most is the way Friday afternoons come into the Jewish parts of the city. Bit by bit, the stores close and the roads empty out. The sounds of the usual bustle begin to subside and a calm begins to pervade the squares and streets. By the time the sun sets over the plain below, it can feel like the whole city has taken a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Last Friday, with the approach of Snowstorm Nemo, New York City could have been Jerusalem. Sleet was falling in the afternoon and people began leaving, getting to where they would stay for the duration of the storm. Even in Midtown, where our office is, bit by bit, there were fewer cars, less honking and sirens. We closed the office a little early. And by the time the snow began to fall in earnest, later in the evening, as I was on my way to Shabbat dinner, there was a magical hush everywhere. The streets were mostly empty except for people walking, some with their dogs. The glow from the strings of left-over holiday lights caught the softly falling snow. The usually frantic city felt soothed and quiet.
One of the things I love about New York City is the wonderful energy and astonishing abundance of people and buildings and things to do and see and eat and explore. There is usually no stopping it or even any desire to stop it. But on this Erev Shabbat, it seemed like the city shavat vayinafash – stopped and took a breath.
By Shabbat morning the sun was shining and the sky was blue. I made my way to Central Park to explore the snowy woods and to watch the kids (of all ages!) playing in the snow. New York was returning to itself: noisy, colorful, vibrant. Yet, the magic of the snow stayed all through Shabbat. It wasn’t until Sunday that there was more gray slush than pristine fields of snow – just in time for a new workaday beginning to the week.