Most of us are over-programmed, disjointed and stressed out. Living in the fast lane isn’t everything that it’s cracked up to be, nor does such a life bring us what we really need deep down – a day simply to be without doing, to love without feeling lonely, to celebrate without worrying, to retrieve simplicity and dispel clutter.
Shabbat is a radical and ancient notion, one that the Jewish people gave to the world 3000 years ago. It’s a day to live counter-culturally, to protest against the domination of consumerism and materialism over our lives.
Through Shabbat, Jews have an opportunity to rediscover family and friends, and to experience why it’s important to take a day to co-exist in the world without having to change or transform it.
Many of us did not grow up with traditional Judaism in our homes, though we may be Jews and strongly identifying. We don’t know very much about Judaism, Hebrew and ritual, and our not knowing feels intimidating and embarrassing. We would rather stay away than feel bad, so we don’t come to synagogue except on state occasions when we can disappear into the crowd.
Let me say this to those of you who feel this way! Stop it! We in established synagogues all over the country want you to come for Shabbat and we don’t care how much you know or don’t know. We just want you. The more frequently you come, the more comfortable you will be. This, I know to be true.
At Friday evening services synagogues sing together, are quiet together, celebrate baby namings, upcoming b’nai mitzvah and weddings, conversions to Judaism, milestone wedding anniversaries and birthdays, and we grieve together and say the Mourner’s Kaddish when we lose our loved ones. We also talk Torah and see its relevance in our lives today. We think, we reconnect and we let go.
That’s what Shabbat is and every synagogue is open for you to join us, young and old, for one hour each week. Come together, or come alone. Plan to meet a friend and return home for a Shabbos meal.
Make every Shabbat evening a weekly date with yourself, to reconnect, to meet fellow congregants, or others about whom you care and love. Everyone is welcome – member and non-member, Jew and those from other traditions alike. We are open communities and want you.
If the service start-time is inconvenient, then leave work early on Fridays and work late another evening during the week. Work out an arrangement with your employer explaining that you want/need to celebrate Shabbat.
Give yourself a gift of one hour of Shabbos each week. Reconsider your priorities and the way you spend your time. Start your weekend together in community.
The greatest benefit of Shabbat is the experience of a replenishing rest, a rest that spills over into our weeks, our years, our lives.
A study conducted at Duke University found that those who attend religious services once a week and are part of a caring religious community add years to their lives, reduce stress, and end up in the hospital significantly less than those who don’t pray.
Singing the blessings together over light, wine and challah and eating a good meal are activities that center all of us.
Even the most harried workdays become tolerable when we know that a day of sacred peace is shortly arriving.
Shabbat returns us to the first light of creation, to the Garden of Eden of oneness and to a reunion with our innermost selves, with our loved ones, our people, and God.
Shabbat is a rekindler of light, a restorer of soul, a bridge linking heaven and earth.
Come join us and remember the Psalmist’s words: “This is the day God has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
Note: If you are already a member of a synagogue, I hope you will take full advantage of its religious community. If not, shop around and find the place that feels comfortable for you. As the Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, we welcome anyone who would like to join us. Our services on Friday evenings all begin at 6:30 PM and conclude by 7:30 PM.