I recently purchased Shabbat: The Family Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating the Sabbath by Dr. Ron Wolfson, the president of Synagogue 3000 (synagogue3000.org).
Anyone who celebrates Shabbat and could use a few pointers or even just some inspiration would love this book. It combines interviews with a diverse set of Jewish families about their Shabbat practices with a complete order of service for the Shabbat meal with insight into the origins and wonders of Shabbat customs.
I thought I might share a few excerpts and insights from the book . . .
First, a quote I really liked, from pg.174:
Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba: The Shabbat was given for enjoyment. Rabbi Shmuel ben Nahmani: The Shabbat was given for studying Torah.
One saying does not contradict the other. Rabbi Hiyya was speaking about scholars who spend the week studying the Torah and use the Shabbat to enjoy themselves. Rabbi Shmuel was talking about workers who are busy with their work all week, and on Shabbat they come and study Torah.
–Pesikta Rabbati 121a
This is a great reminder that the Sabbath is a good time to read and/or study Torah at the table (after the meal, of course). If you’re a beginner and don’t know how to study Torah, find the Torah reading for the week on the web and at least read it at the table. You can find the Torah reading combined with other scriptural readings at our congregation website: http://tikvatdavid.com/Reading_Schedule.html
One of my favorite parts of the book is the series of interviews with a variety of different families. There is the traditional family, where the dad leads just about everything. There is the family recently coming back to Judaism because their kids wanted to know how to be Jews. There is the single mother who makes Shabbat only every other week when she has custody of the kids. There are the two single women who rely on families from the synagogue and havurah groups to be able to celebrate Shabbat without being alone.
Reading their observations about the Shabbat experience is inspiring. It is also educational. I learned some different ways of doing things.
One lesson I learned was the importance of looking out for singles. As we invite people to our home for Shabbat, I’ll pay more attention to the needs of singles from now on. Another is the importance of letting the kids gradually take over the leadership role. Shabbat is also about passing it on l’dor va’dor, from generation to generation.
I like what the single mom said about Shabbat being just a continuation of her regular practice:
I do Jewish things all day long. When I say