The Gift of Shabbat
“On the seventh day, God finished the work that had been undertaken, and God “rested” (using the Hebrew word, Shabbat) on the seventh day from doing any work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy—for, on it, God rested from the work that God had planned to do.”
This past Shabbat, we began reading from the beginning of the book of Genesis. First, we hear of the world’s creation: it is raw and formless. Yet, day by day, refinement happens. Landmasses appear, as do oceans. Skies protect the planet, and then vegetation covers the earth. Fish and birds arrive, followed by land animals, culminating in the creation of beings in the Divine image, men and women. Finally, after all this massive activity, God takes a break, a time to marvel at the entirety of the creation. This day is branded for eternity as Shabbat, a day of rest and restoration.
I found it fascinating that with all the intrigue in each day of creation, our Bar Mitzvah boy, Jake B., chose to speak about Shabbat.
Jake said, “Shabbat can free us to spend time with those we love and to savor small moments that usually pass unnoticed, freeing us to reflect on what matters most. The candles, readings, songs, and wine help to set the mood, creating an atmosphere of warmth and invitation.
We all observe Shabbat in different ways. But the idea of taking a day off for contemplation, spirituality, family, and friends are things we can all relate to. Sometimes it’s hard to commit whole Saturdays to this, but the Torah is teaching us that we need to have these elements of rest, restoration, and time for family in our lives.”
While we all celebrate Shabbat differently, nonetheless, I would suggest certain practices: make Shabbat a delight. When I shop for Shabbat, I usually buy a crusty bread and yummy dessert for myself. I get soup for Shiri and a large variety of vegetables and appetizers for Judy and Eden. Every Shabbat meal, we all have something to look forward to. When the kids were young, Shabbat would be the only day of the week when we gave them candy. I’d break out the stash and the “Shabbos party” was always a hit. Afterward, instead of watching TV, we strive to play a game together.
When Judy is with me for Shabbat, we keep a reasonably Orthodox Shabbat, reading, playing games, going for a walk and taking a needed nap, all without electronics. When Judy’s in Teaneck, I’ll take a bike ride to Jones Beach, Belmont Lake, or even Heckscher State Park. Sometimes I’ll catch up on some gardening. While the latter two don’t fall into the traditional scheme of Shabbat, they’re things that I usually can’t do during the week, and they bring me joy. They are also my Shabbat delights.
Celebrating Shabbat and the Holidays grandly can have significant ramifications. I just spoke to a grandmother telling me about her grandson’s wedding. He was marrying a non-Jewish woman, but he insisted on having a Cantor preside over the wedding ceremony. He wanted Judaism to be part of his future married home. The grandmother attributes this affection for Judaism to her going all out on Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Chanukah. When these holidays are fun and meaningful, they will carry over to the next generation.
The Greeks and Romans ridiculed the Shabbat, accusing ancient Jews of laziness for resting one day out of every seven. Eventually, the world caught on, but Shabbat should not just be an ordinary Friday night or Saturday. Sanctify it, call it a delight, and, indeed, it will be so for you and your children.
Wishing you a wonderful week and Shabbatot full of delight,
Manetto Hill Jewish Center
244 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview, NY 11803