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Good Shabbes! (Oh and by the way, turn off your cell phone)

07/24/2013 02:42:43 PM


            Our tradition calls Shabbat me’en olam haba, a taste of the world to come. Abraham Joshua Heschel points out that the idea that a 7th of our lives can be experienced as paradise is a scandal to pagans and a revelation to Jews. In general I believe we do not think hard enough about how to practice Shabbat so that it can be a regular taste of the world as it should be. In fact, one of the challenges of progressive Judaism is that we have to think about it. Without community norms, without feeling required to accept all of traditional Jewish practice, we are left as individuals with the challenge of discerning what will make Shabbat a joyous, re-energizing and holy part of our lives.
            The one exception to this is when we come to shul. One of the great things about coming to synagogue on Shabbat is that it pulls us out of the realm of individual practice and into a community of Shabbat celebration. For some of us just being at synagogue helps us to let go of the office, the yard work or bills that might be nagging us. It is also a sanctuary from the distraction of email and phone calls that quickly connect us back to our work life. One of the gifts we give to each other when come together community on Shabbat is the ability to fully immerse ourselves in communal Shabbat consciousness.
    What does this mean? At its most profound level it means working together to build a Shabbat practice that is delightful. Shabbat should be a rest from the stresses of work. It should be an experience that stimulates our souls and our minds. This includes things like singing with our heart, deep learning and soulful prayer. But it also includes more concrete things like putting a little extra into a Kiddush we are hosting, wearing a favorite outfit and going out of our way to greet each other with warmth and sincerity.
            However, maintaining a culture of Shabbat celebration also requires some discipline. Shabbat is supposed to be a day, not only of refraining from work but of living as though there is no work waiting for us. With only a little effort we can find something other than our job to talk about over bagels and cream cheese. It can be much harder not to talk about the work we do as volunteers to support the synagogue. But whether we are unnecessarily talking about our jobs or taking advantage of seeing a particular Bnai Keshet committee chair, when we allow ourselves to focus on work we deprive ourselves of the ability to fully experience our taste of the world as it should be. When we commit ourselves to speaking to one another in a way that honors Shabbat we open up the possibility of having holy discussions that would otherwise be missed.
    Oh and by the way the world to come does not include cell phone interruptions, email or text messaging. There is little that can pull us more quickly out of our communal taste of paradise than a cell phone. So please, leave your phone at home or if need to bring it, turn it off while at Bnai Keshet. Good Shabbes!
A similar version of this blog post was originally printed in the Rainbow Reporter, January 2007. For more simple ideas for creating a Good Shabbes, see
Tue, June 2 2020 10 Sivan 5780