I want to thank the dozen or so people I heard from during the URJ Biennial who all told me about the new Shabat initiative. See, URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie has somehow got into his head that, in most synagogues, Shabat morning has been taken over by the Bar Mitzvah. I wonder where he got that idea. The goal of the initiative is, simply put, to fix that. I’m ecstatic about it.
As part of the initiative, everyone at Biennial received a box of 52 playing card-size cards. One of the cards explains: “You hold in your hands fifty-two different ways to celebrate the gift of Shabbat—one for every Shabbat of the year [blogger’s note: God forbid they should use the Jewish year to arrive at this number]. Each is a ritual which serves to punctuate time and space, marking Shabat as special, holy, set aside—kadosh.” It then goes on to note how each card carries an idea from some Reform Jew somewhere in North America. “Mirroring the diversity of our movement,” it says, “these rituals are both traditional and creative.”
Okay, so I’m gonna admit some bias here. I love these cards, not just because they’re a pretty good idea, but because, well, I’m on one of them. What follows is my review of some of my favorite and most thought-provoking cards in the deck.
“I only drink Coca-Cola on Shabbat because it’s my favorite beverage—it helps sanctify the day. I wrote a brachah—blessing for my first glass of Coke each Shabbat: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, hamotzi caffeine min egoz hakolah—Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe, who brings forth caffeine from the cola nut.”
So obviously I think this one is genius. I came up with it. My ego grows daily.
“Vegetarianism is something I aspire to but, as yet, feel unable to maintain. But I do keep vegetarian for Shabbat—beginning with Friday night dinner. It helps heighten my awareness as different and as truly holy time.”
I love it. One of the major ideas Jewish thinkers have advocated about Shabat over the years is that Shabat is a sort of foreshadowing of the world to come—a perfected world. In this case, here’s a person who uses Shabat as a time to be what they see as a more perfected version of themselves—a version that they are “as yet, unable to maintain,” just as we are unable, as yet, to maintain a perfected world.
And the prize for sounding the most like something I would say and wish I had said goes to….
“I have something special for lunch; often it’s falafel—Texas style—with salsa.”
“We ask our guests and each person in our family to bring an object from the weekly Torah portion to share during Shabbat dinner or lunch.” And this similar card: “Table d’rash! I try to decorate the table with something that relates to the weekly Torah portion. Sometimes I copy the Union’s Family Shabbat Table Talk, a few lines of Torah or a relevant newspaper article for discussion. Sometimes I’m more creative: putting out red lentils, a bowl of water, toys or artwork that is related.”
This is so good. I’m already giving some thought doing this myself some day. I love the idea of having little trinkets or whatever on the table to remind us of parshat hashavuah.
These next two are very telling examples of what moves people—not me, but some people—in our movement these days: “Our synagogue doesn’t have regular Shabbat morning services so I attend a yoga class on Saturday morning. It’s an opportunity for reflecting, meditating, reconnecting with my neshuma [sic] [soul] , asking for God’s guidance….” And this one: “When possible, we spend Shabbat out of doors: hiking, at the beach…. Something that puts us back in our bodies an in touch with nature.”
“When we’re on the road in our RV we attend services if there is a synagogue nearby. Otherwise we make Shabbat on the coach and do Torah study in the morning together….”
Brings new meaning to Wandering Arameans.
“When my kids were young we started a family ritual of “Shabbat snack” [sic]. It was a late Saturday afternoon event, the best snacks of the week with a game or family read-aloud time….”
Good idea. It’s called seudat shlishit.
“I save new clothing I buy for its first wearing on Shabbat. That gives more meaning to the acquisition, and it enhances Shabbat.”
I love it. I ordered a new t-shirt recently and I shall wait till Shabbat to wear it.
Big thanks to Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman for putting the deck together and a big bravo for Rabbi Yoffie on making Shabat a URJ priority.