“More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”

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“More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews. Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg, poet, philosopher, 1856-1927)

by Rabbi Shawn Zevit

These winter months invite us to feel gratitude for shelter, warmth and connection. We may even pull back and look at what is essential to our daily routines, especially when winter challenges our mobility or regular, driven schedules. Of course, “pulling-back” in our times, is a luxury, a privilege and simply not an option for many of us given the issues we face locally, nationally and globally.

More than ever before the weekly touchstone of Shabbat has become an oasis in our 24/7 culture, with its non-stop inundation of disconcerting tweets and social media buzz. What is gained and what is lost when Shabbat and our own shared customs become fuzzy, unknown to most, are unobserved and is, at times, like all other days of the week?

The Talmud (Shabbat 10b) states that Shabbat was a precious gift to us. We know from B’reshit/Genesis 2:1, that Shabbat is the Day the “Generator of Creation” paused to re-ensoul and integrate all that had been created. Shabbat was dedicated to building a relationship with the Divine, and reconnecting and renewing our deepest selves after a week of laboring in the physical world. One of the greatest benefits of Shabbat has always been family and community. At Mishkan Shalom, this also includes engaging with meaningful and activist topics as well, such as on Human Rights Shabbat, MLK Weekend Shabbat and other special themed-Shabbat services in the year.

Two different words, Shamor V’Zachor (Keep and Remember), were used in relation to Shabbat the two times the Ten Commandments are written in the Torah. The Sages teach that this directs us in both commitment and spiritual discipline (Shamor) as well as staying connected to Shabbat as a universal dynamic for balance and well-being (Zachor). Younger generations of Jews have developed an annual unplugged Sabbath, which is a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world. Others are advocating in a creative and egalitarian context for the deeper value of Shabbat as it makes for a healthier and more connected life.

There are also a number of Shabbat policies we developed as a community over the years which are public on our website, and articulate the process and values-set behind our policies. Please take a look and familiarize yourself with them. Our practices, and customs of Shabbat in our communal setting, revised by our Spiritual Life Council this past year are posted on the third floor outside the chapel and sanctuary.

Here at Mishkan Shalom, all our services are participatory and egalitarian. We hold Shabbat and Holiday services year-round at 10:00 a.m. (10:30 a.m. in the summers) and Rosh Hodesh (New Month) Celebrations, as well as the High Holidays and Festivals. We offer our soul-centered, musical Kabbalat Shabbat, held every other Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted (with Friday night summer Shabbat-Under-the-Stars). Twice monthly A Way In at Mishkan Shalom Shabbat morning services are led by Rabbi Yael Levy.  Once-a-month Community Veggie-Fish-Dairy Potluck Dinners begin at 5:45 p.m., preceding Kabbalat Shabbat services.

Our new and very successful monthly Shabbat school happens during the winter months, and weekly Torah study and monthly Spiritual Direction Circles take place at 9:00 a.m. on Shabbat mornings. We have a monthly Shabbat afternoon study and ritual gathering “Pause and Refresh Your Soul” that Rabbi Simcha and I host in our home and occasionally life-long learning opportunities on Shabbat, or a prayerful nature walk with Steve Jones, or ritual moments for celebration, loss, education, justice, spiritual life, and connection.

I invite you all to engage with Rabbi Yael, Rivka, me and each other in exploring what Shabbat is for you in your life, your home, here at Mishkan Shalom and what Shabbat consciousness and contemporary Shabbat practice might be for you. Here’s a short video as a taste of Shabbat  for any day of the week!

Our congregation begins the Purim holiday on Friday night, February 23 with Celebrations! Sensory Friendly Purim Carnival. We continue on Sunday morning, February 25, with our annual Purim carnival and on Wednesday, February 28, 6:30 p.m., our Purim evening of joyful service, megillah reading, Hebrew school skits and adult Purim shpiels. Thanks to modern Jewish feminist thought, and especially resonant with this time of unmasking the level of inequity and harassment women continue to face in their personal and professional lives, Vashti, King Ahashverous’ wife has been claimed as one of the champions of the story (along with Esther and Mordechai), as she risked and lost her own standing by saying “no to the King” (as our own Rabbi Margot Stein sings in her co-written Purim song!)

Chag Purim sameah! Looking forward to seeing you on Shabbat soon and celebrating with all of you at our multiple events this month!

4101 Freeland Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19128 - ph: (215) 508-0226 / office@mishkan.org Site map