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Shalom Shabbat

Shalom Shabbat


New friends are puzzled, even dismayed, when they hear about the way I observe the Shabbat. They are surprised to learn that I do not write, flip an electric switch, use the telephone, cook or engage in a host of assorted everyday activities for twenty five hours each week, starting Friday night at sunset until Saturday at nightfall.

After that brief pocket of time, I am back on track, rushing along on that same fast-paced corporate treadmill. No one who sees me in the throes of my hectic life would ever believe I take such a prolonged hiatus, and on such a regular No one who sees me in the throes of my hectic life would ever believe I take such a prolonged hiatus, and on such a regular basis basis. "How can you afford to do that?" they ask. When they hear that my observance also precludes shopping, theater-going and a wide gamut of recreational activities, they'll raise an eyebrow and say, "Why would you want to do that?"

This reaction is not at all surprising. It comes from the natural assumption that to cease our everyday pursuits is not only difficult, but impossible. Think of the advertisements with the harried climber perched precariously on the mountaintop, logging in on a laptop to check for e-mail; or the sunbather on a remote island clinching a last-minute deal even as she professes to be on vacation.

"You shall work during the six days and do all your tasks. But Saturday is the Shabbat to G‑d your Lord. Do not do anything that constitutes work." (Exodus 20:8-10.)

Everyone seems to take this fourth of the Ten Commandments quite seriously. The part about working for six days, that is. But, of course, the whole commandment is relevant: Shabbat is rendered meaningful by the work days and the work days are elevated by Shabbat.

The Kabbalah teaches that G‑d spent six days creating a stage on which we are all the actors. He did this by contracting His energy and pulling back, thus creating an "empty place," an arena we call "the world." G‑d remains hidden to allow us our freedom and the ability to choose. He's hoping we will choose Tikkun Olam, perfecting the world. He's hoping we will validate His plan by spending six days each week elevating this world, unmasking the G‑dliness inherent in all matter and unleashing the Divine spark of energy that gives life to all things.

Shabbat is a potent reminder that takes us back to the beginning. It is a reunion with our inner selves

As we become submerged in our work, however, it becomes a struggle to remain above it. In the endless conflict between earth and spirit, sheer weight often wins out. It is easy to forget our source, our reason for being, our point of departure for this journey we call life. Shabbat is a potent reminder that takes us back to the beginning. It is a reunion with our inner selves; a return to the primal oneness our souls enjoyed with G‑d before being sent to our present existence. It is a return to the perfection that existed after the six days of creation, before sin.

That I don't cook, shop, or fax on Shabbat is a statement as much as it is a way of life. On Shabbat I will desist from harnessing this world's energies and forces. I will suspend my efforts to master and transform. In mirroring G‑d's original pattern -- ceasing after six days of invention and innovation -- I will lift the veil and come face to face with my self and my G‑d.

So think again, this time about the advertisements for glamorous vacation options to exotic, sun-drenched islands, and their promise of escape from the everyday din and commotion. Not only are you hundreds or thousands of miles from home, but the plug is pulled on the phone, fax and e-mail. What a relief! And that's what I experience each week when on Friday, just as the sun is about to set, I disconnect myself from my everyday summonses. I light the Shabbat candles and something changes as I clear my mind and take a deep breath, knowing I am in a place where I could never have arrived on my own.

Rivkah Slonim is the education director at the Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life at Binghamton University. An internationally known teacher, lecturer and activist, she travels widely, addressing the intersection of traditional Jewish observance and contemporary life, with a special focus on Jewish women in Jewish law and life. Slonim is the editor of Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology (Jason Aronson, 1996; Urim, 2006) and Bread and Fire: Jewish Women Find God in the Everyday (Urim, 2008). Slonim and her husband are the grateful and proud parents of nine children.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Discussion (17)
December 13, 2012
since paternal grandparents and father colluded to omit jewish practice from our upbringing [in the 30's and 40's] family siblings are teaching ourselves..
wendy fa ber
October 2, 2011
Also, another important rule on Sabbath
Is to love G-d with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor (could be wife who is not Jewish, etc) as yourself. In other words, you do what you can do according to the laws you choose to observe, ONLY as it does not offend others. You CAN obey laws without offending if your WORDS to them in explanation are IN LOVE. IMO, if you SHOW HATRED or bitterness to others that because they stand in you way, you NEGATE the spirit of Sabbath anyway, and all your following of laws will be moot. So it is imperative to blend the law with love.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA
September 28, 2011
I find this article deeply meaningful and supportive. Thank you for writing it.
Wellington, NZ
June 12, 2011
The meaning of Shalom...
Literally, I believe it means HELLO, goodbye, and also peace.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
June 11, 2011
Thank you
Thank you for reminding me of Shabbat's meaning and the joy of my weekly embrace from Hashem.
Los Angeles, CA, USA
June 7, 2011
the meaning of the word shalom . i need to know
dayton, oh
December 1, 2010
One trick, Julio, that some mixed marriages...
Use where children are concerned, is to suggest to your wife you FIND OUT all the good, beautiful and wonderful parts of BOTH her and your religion, and just celebrate the ones with your child that you both agree show love, peace and joy and G-s miracles. The SABBATH with us was ONLY stressed as "THE DAY G-D LETS US REST FROM WORRIES", and a day we think about Him. With my sons, CHANUKAH was a BIG celebration, although at the time I was also doing the Christian holidays. Chanukah conflicts with NOTHING. Also, your child will get 8 DAYS of gifts. So, if you celebrate Christmas, that makes NINE days of gifts. Such a deal, huh? You can do this. Never let your daughter forget she has Jewish ancestors, and make sure, also, she gets a Jewish name if your wife allows...tell her it's just for fun. Maybe one day, she'll CHOOSE to be what Daddy is, and look into it on her own. Stress she always tell her children when she has babies that they have Jewish ancestors and be proud. Always proud.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
November 30, 2010
Shabbat ideas...
Karen, thank you for all the advice that you gave me, will try a few and see how that works. We have an almost 4 year old and sometimes is not easy but...other people have done will see. Thanks again.
julio a barrios
bloomington, mn/eeuu
November 28, 2010
Dear Julio in mn/eeuu
This would be a beginning. Little by little. What I, personally, believe is that the SPIRIT of the laws is important to REMEMBER and you do what you are able to the extent you are able. 1) Ask your wife to respect your need to have one day of rest. You don't even have to tell her about the religious significance since she's not Jewish. Say that men die before women of heart attacks and science has shown that if a man rests on a regular basis, he can live longer. 2) Explain that part of resting means only having PHILOSOPHICAL or values discussions rather than any talk about problems in the world or in the house or in politics, etc. 3) Explain that if you need to do work to save someone's life, this would also be part of resting because it would make you feel comforted in your emotions. 4) Tell her it would be so romantic if you could light some candles before dinner (which would be sunset, right?) and you do silent prayers. JMO (just my opinion). Later, a little more, etc.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
November 28, 2010
I miss the practice.....
Long ago I used to practice Shabbos according to the law. Then life events come in and change things in your life. I married a woman who is not a Jew and has a hard time with my Judaism. Got to deal with that...What do I do in Shabbat? read as much as I can in the pc, books, articles etc. I found that way I am still connected with G-d, even though I break the law.
julio a barrios
bloomington, mn/eeuu