Rav Bar Oz* (From Strength to Strength)
Ready to help you take your Jewish connection to another level
by Rabbi Jeremy Barras
Over a year ago we started a new Shabbat Committee aimed at enhancing and deepening how Beth Amers benefit from Shabbat. Under the leadership of Tracey Spiegelman and David Schwadron, we spent an entire year investigating what Shabbat could look like for our members in an ideal world, and then started planning how to achieve this goal.
What became apparent to us is that over the course of a 25-hour period (from sundown on Friday to one hour past sundown on Saturday), we are blessed with the opportunity to unplug, unwind and reconnect to what it truly important. In many ways, this is the essence of Judaism, as Ahad Ha’am famously taught, “more so than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” His intention was that Jews need to pause when the week is over and before the next begins, and shut off all that distracts them from spirituality, and what is really meaningful. We have many members who will claim that they are not spiritual, but perhaps if they made Shabbat part of their weekly routine, they could ultimately find the spiritual connection that has eluded them.
The Shabbat Committee believes that there is a wealth of opportunities to connect with Shabbat that extend well beyond the 6:30 pm Friday service in the Sanctuary. While that service is one of the centerpieces of the week and it is wonderful when the congregation can be all together, it does not have to be the make or break moment for Shabbat at Temple Beth Am.
As one of our committee members Angelina Kaye recently wrote, “How often do we really take advantage of Shabbat? Whether it’s attending services, enjoying a Shabbat meal, engaging in Jewish learning or simply spending time with our families and friends, Temple Beth Am is committed to bringing Shabbat to our community both inside and outside the walls of our campus.”
We already are forming chavurot and providing them with support and ideas as to how to do Shabbat together. Shabbat dinner groups are forming where several families are coming to services together on Friday nights once a month, and then meeting for dinner at someone’s home on a rotating basis. Havdallah groups are meeting monthly to end Shabbat together and to spend some time delving into the Torah. More and more people are making Torah study a staple of their Saturday mornings and hanging around for our inspiring Saturday morning minyan.
Soon you will receive a #25 hours kit that will give you all the resources and tools necessary to start your own group. It is in these groups where our Judaism will go to get nourished. It is in these ways where we will derive inspiration to become more connected spiritually, and I pray where the unconnected will become connected.
This is our chance to take our community to the next level, to endow our days with real worth, to come closer and closer to each other as members of a flourishing Jewish community. Look for the hashtag #25hours as your new bridge to! Your starter kit will arrive soon... and the clergy is ready and prepared to help you take your Jewish connection to another level.
* The Barras family name was created during the Ellis Island Experience. Originally it was Bar Oz, meaning strength in Hebrew.