How can we make Shabbat UK different from all other shabatot
By Raya Even David
One of the things that make me proud of my affiliation to the Masorti movement is our dedication to halacha, Jewish law. We don’t just leave tradition up to the individual’s choice, but rather present it as mandatory. Yet at the same time, there’s no sense of coerciveness, and each person can feel welcome no matter what their level of observance.
So how can we use Shabbat UK, coming up on October 23-24, as an opportunity to enhance our Shabbat experience, each with their own level of comfort and keeping within the boundaries of the mitzvot, commandments? Let’s explore together some options that perhaps aren’t yet part of our weekend routine.
Personal prayer during candle lighting
Though many of us might enjoy lighting the Shabbat candles, we don’t all keep our hands covering our eyes to say a personal tfila (prayer). This is an opportunity for us to ask God to bless our loved ones and grant us a peaceful weekend with good food, entertaining company and inspiring melodies or divrei torah in shul. We can begin our Shabbat experience at home with a moment of quiet time between ourselves and our Creator.
Words of Torah during meal time
Bring holiness to the world while enjoying your tasty meals. Try leading a discussion or giving a dvar torah at home! As Rabbi Yochanan ben Bag Bag said: “Look deeply into it; grow old and grey over it, and do not stir from it, for you can have no better portion than it”. It’s very likely you’ll get the best portion from the main course for your efforts, though hopefully not to keep your mouth so full you can’t talk…
It’s good to get out of our comfort zones from time to time. How about singing a Shabbat song before bentching? It could be something challenging like a round where every voice counts (Ma Tovu comes to mind), or a sing-a-long (try an oldie like Tzur Mishelo) or even one with a response for those of you who like your solos (Yigdal). Don’t wait for Pesach to invite the youngest to have the stage; everyone deserves their time to shine… As it is said: “sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth” (Tehilim 96:1).
Morning prayers said at home:
Our tradition invites us to say Modeh Ani when we wake up in the morning, BEFORE we even get out of bed. We’re also encouraged to fulfil the hand washing ritual and bless Al Netilat Yada’im – the only time during the day when we bless without the intention of eating bread immediately after. Furthermore, there’s the wonderful blessing of Asher Yatzar we can also say at home, giving us on opportunity to contemplate how miraculous the human body is with all our organs and internal systems, for “if but one of them were to be ruptured or blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You”.
“And Moshe said: Eat it today, for today is Shabbat to God; today you will not find it in the field” (Shmot 16:25). Since the word HAYOM in reference to eating the Manna is repeated three times, our Sages ruled we are required to consume three meals on Shabbat. Now we all know that Jews love food, especially our yummy challah. So if Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch weren’t enough, let’s eat more in the early evening! Before Shabbat ends, it’s customary to have a third meal, sing more songs (like Yedid Nefesh) and consider next week’s parasha – as we near the end of our Shabbat and the end of our week. And if you’re satiated from lunch and would prefer to avoid the extra calories, just remember that on Shabbat we’re eating for ourselves as well as for our neshama yetera, our additional soul, so rest assured that any excess food won’t actually be consumed by your bodies.
Just because we said havdalla, doesn’t mean we have to say goodbye to Shabbat. In the 25th hour, there’s a custom to accompany out the Queen (Shabbat’s female embodiment), just as we welcomed her in when we sang Lecha Dodi. We’re escorting Her Highness from the holiness of Shabbat to the everyday of our new week by eating (of course!), drinking, singing, schmoozing and studying torah.
Shabbat UK for each shul within the Masorti movement will hopefully include something unique that we don’t get a chance to enjoy regularly. The ultimate goal is to get us all celebrating Shabbat as a community as well as individuals, to become more informed and most of all – inspired. The phrase Oneg Shabbat comes from “Call the Sabbath a delight” (Yesha’iya 58:13). May we seize the opportunity to challenge ourselves, open our minds to try new things, and most of all, be restful and full of peace.
Raya Even-David is the director of Education at Edgware Masorti Synagogue and wife of Mijael Even-David, Rabbi of Edgware Masorti Synagogue.