Photo courtesy of Micaela Ezra
Last week we shared five of our favorite accessible ways to begin or grow your observance of Shabbat, Judaism’s weekly day of rest which runs from Friday evening at sunset through to Saturday night 25 hours later – and this week we’re back with the second half of our list.
Especially in times as uncertain as the ones we’re living through right now, Shabbat is an incredible tool for disconnecting from the chaos of 2020 and reconnecting with ourselves, our loved ones, and our tradition and spirituality. In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and one of the most prominent Jewish thinkers of our times, who tragically passed away just yesterday, “Shabbat is the day we stand still and let all our blessings catch up with us” – and, now more than ever, couldn’t we all use a little bit of that in our lives?
Take Time to Relax
Whether that means curling up with a good book, taking a relaxing stroll in nature, or even a nap (a Shabbat nap on Saturday afternoon is actually a traditional practice for some!), take some time to rest and rejuvenate. After all, Shabbat commemorates the seventh day of creation when, after bringing the world into being on the first six days, God ceased from work – and, in so doing, created the very concept of rest.
In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, in his classic The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, “Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.” Which, if you think about it, means that even your Shabbat self-care is imbued with an extra hit of holiness.
Attitude of Gratitude
We love this suggestion that our friend Paula Shoyer, The Kosher Baker, shared on our Your Jewish Life Instagram account: Shabbat is the perfect time to reflect back on the week and focus on the things you have to be grateful for – from the biggest to the smallest. Seriously, it can be anything from your family to finding a great parking spot!
Keep Up with the Weekly Torah Portion
Reading the weekly parsha (Torah portion) is a great way to spend some of your Shabbat. If, like most of us, you’re not able to read it in the original Hebrew, find a translation you like in English or whatever language is most comfortable for you. Either in addition to reading the actual Torah portion, or instead, you can also sign up to get any number of commentaries sent to your inbox or podcast queue weekly, in written or audio form. There are plenty to choose from – check out Covenant and Conversation from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who sadly passed away over this past Shabbat; Ten Minutes of Torah from Reformjudaism.org; Torah from JTS; or Parsha Picks from Chabad. If you’re looking for some more suggestions, we love this list from My Jewish Learning.
Buy Yourself Some Beautiful Shabbat Gear
From candlesticks to challah covers to kiddush cups to tzedakah boxes, these days there are so many options for adding beautiful Judaica pieces to your Shabbat collection. Though you certainly don’t need lots of fancy gear to observe Shabbat, having a few pieces you really enjoy using each week can add an extra special touch to your celebration. Some of our favorite sources are ModernTribe in the US and Contemporary Judaica in the UK.
If you’re looking to bring Shabbat observance into your life, your first steps will probably include acknowledging the start of the holiday on Friday night. But why not mark the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening, too? The Havdalah ceremony, whose name means “division” or “separation” in Hebrew, does exactly that, separating Shabbat from the rest of the week and encouraging us to bring some of the joy, peace, and holiness we’ve hopefully experienced during these past 25 hours into the coming days. Traditions include lighting a double-wicked candle, sipping wine or grape juice, sniffing aromatic spices (to carry the aroma of Shabbat into the week), and reciting a variety of blessings touching on “distinctions between the holy and the everyday, between light and darkness, between the people Israel and the other peoples of the earth, and between the seventh day of rest and the six days of work.”
How do you observe Shabbat? Let us know in the comments – or come chat with us on Instagram at @yourjewishlife!