The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

Shabbat


When most people think of holidays, they think of annual celebrations, but in Judaism there is one holiday that occurs every week - the Sabbath. Known in Hebrew as Shabbat and in Yiddish as Shabbos, this holiday is central to Jewish Life. As the great Jewish writer, Adad Ha-Am has observed: “Even more than the Jews have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.” The Sabbath has been a unifying force for Jews the world over.


There are so many “things” we associate with Shabbat. Rituals like candle lighting, Kiddush and Havdalah. Prayers, naps, big meals with family and friends. So what’s at the heart of the Jewish day of rest? What’s it really all about?


The Torah tells us that G-d created the world in six days, and on the seventh He rested – which means “Shabbat,” in Hebrew. Later on, after G-d took the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them the Torah at Mt. Sinai, He commanded them to keep Shabbat – to desist from all labor every seventh day, just as He did. But this command is not some meaningless call for mimicry. It’s a way of recognizing where the world came from, and it gives us time away from the daily grind to focus on becoming a little closer to G-d.


All of the little details of Shabbat all connect back to this central idea: acknowledging that G-d is the Creator of all.  We know Shabbat is the day of rest. But what does that mean? Why is rest such a big deal?  When G-d first rested, He had completed His task of creating the heavens and the earth. In other words, G-d wasn’t taking a break – there was nothing left to do. Everything was complete, and there was simply no need for further effort or thought – now the point was to  simply enjoy the fruits of all the hard work.


Similarly, when we talk about Shabbat being a day of rest, this doesn’t just mean, “take a break for a day.” Resting is a perspective. It’s not just refraining from work; it’s believing there’s no work to be done. It’s allowing oneself to enter into a mindset of completeness. When you enter into this mindset, our goals and ambitions take a backseat, and life becomes just about enjoying what’s around us.


Why is the Sabbath still important, thousands of years later? What does it mean to refrain from 'work' in a modern world? How can we rest in a hurried world?


We need to re-assess our ideas about work and rest. G-d’s rest had very little in common with the idea of vacation. It was not something that merely happened after G-d created the world; it was not that G-d took some time off for a breather. The Creator’s rest was a deliberate act. It was a kind of rest that was, somehow, an end in and of itself.  Rest always provides a complement to work.  G-d stopped not because the work was over. The work of improvement is never over. But He pulled back and left that work in our hands. It is now up to us to become earthly creators, to “guard the world and to work it”; to leave to the next generation a world better than the world we were given.


On Shabbat, we escape the need to keep on tinkering.  Sit back, let go, and appreciate all that is around you. Shabbat is an island of tranquility in the turmoil of work, anxiety, struggle and distress that characterizes our daily lives for the other six days of the week.  Shabbat is the soul of the week; our weekly taste of this future world. On Shabbat we see the world as a reflection of G-d, a manifestation of His imaginative thoughts. G-d is the artist, the universe is His gallery, and on Shabbat this gallery is open to the public.

 

Enter and Enjoy!  Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Stuart A. Paris, HaKohen


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Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah