Home World Israel Even Secular Jews Need Shabbat

Even Secular Jews Need Shabbat

Shabbat Table
Shabbat Table

Uri Heitner wrote an article in Israel Hayom he named Why secular Jews need Shabbat.

I have my own take on it.

Shabbat is one of Judaism’s greatest contributions to mankind, sanctifying the seventh day of the week and commanding it for rest. It is a day when we should not work, we should not earn a living, we should not conduct business and/or add to our wealth.

A day that must be totally devoted to family, to community, to leisure, culture, learning, the soul and the spirit, as one chooses.


Shabbat does not only belong to observant Jews but to all Jews, to all of us, the nation of Israel. It is in everyone’s interest that Shabbat will not be like any other day of the week, a regular day.

So what makes Shabbat unlike all other days? Different Jews will respond to this question according to their beliefs and lifestyles. Israel’s and Jewish communities public space should give expression to these different paths, alongside each other.

In Jerusalem, for instant every two months there is an event called Oneg Shel Shabbat (Shabbat Delight). Dozens of religious and secular organizations gather to create a multi-faceted cultural Shabbat, at sites throughout the city, that are open to the public at large. In set up tens, if not in hundreds of secular communities all over the country, there are Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming the Sabbath) ceremonies every week to elevate the soul, connect their participants to Jewish texts and the meaning of Shabbat, and fill their lives with meaning. Not to mention the observant Jews who attend prayers at their synagogues.

I myself attend Saturday morning service at my neighborhood Chabadsola Synagogue. (http://www.chabadsola.com/)

Every Friday, at 7:00 P.M, Cantor Estherleon Schwartz conducts Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming the Sabbath) ceremony at Lenny’s Deli, on Westwood Boulevard, in West Los Angeles (http://westhollywood.patch.com/groups/events/p/shabbat-dinner-at-lennys-deli-with-cantor-estherleon-and-friends_dd001425)

Cantor Estherleon Schwartz

For the past five years, in the secular Kibbutz Ortal in the Golan Heights,(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ortal,_Golan_Heights) (http://www.ortal.net/EN/default.asp) the members and guests welcome the Sabbath with a short ceremony that includes the lighting of candles, kiddush (Blessing), Shabbat songs and a sermon about the weekly Torah portion.

I personally would like to see the Sabbath in the Jewish state, Israel, have a special and of deep meaning and character, all at each individual’s choice A day of no commerce or work, but of cultural and community life. On Shabbat, at their choice, the cinemas, the theaters – that includes the national theater – and the opera, open. I see a Shabbat filled with music and dance performances, with open museums and sports competitions. I see a Shabbat of trips and tourism. True, this is not the halachic Shabbat, but it is Shabbat as it should be, full of joy and the least of stress. It is a break from the hardship of life, from commerce and the pursuit of money and fame, a day of rest and/or delight for the individual and community’s soul. Nothing could be further from this vision than a Shabbat of shopping, consumerism, receiving money and spending it and growing richer – or poorer – while enslaving workers whose Shabbat, of all its meaning, was snatched away from them.

Shabbat ShalomPrayer

The Hebrew and pen name Ahad Ha’am, who is Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg, a Hebrew essayist, and one of the foremost pre-state Zionist thinker, also known as the founder of cultural Zionism and one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of recent centuries, and the father of the cultural and spiritual school of Zionism, defined himself as an atheist, and did not follow Orthodox Jewish law. But Shabbat was very dear to him: “There is no need to be a punctilious observer of commandments in order to recognize the value of Shabbat,” he wrote. Those who, in their heart, feel a real connection with the life of the nation, throughout the generations, cannot, in any way, depict the reality of the people of Israel without the Sabbath queen. It can be said, without exaggeration, that more than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel. Without it, which restored their souls and reinvigorated their spirits each week, the hardships of the days of creation would pull them further and further downward until they hit the lowest level of materialism and moral and mental debasement.”

In other words, what makes human beings spiritually higher than the animals? The Shabbat.

Shabbat Candles

I was born in Israel and was raised in a secular home. But I was taught that Shabbat was a day of REST, and it meant to be a DAY of REST. The entire Israel shut down early Friday afternoon and reopened on Sunday morning. To my astonishment, now in Israel they cannot wait for the Shabbat to pass so the commerce sector can commence its hustle and bustle on Saturday night, not Sunday morning. And why?

Shabbat Challahbread

The Israeli Supreme Court’s latest decision regarding the opening of grocery stores in Tel Aviv on Shabbat is not, per se, about Shabbat, the values it embodies, the city’s ethos or the nature of public space in the Jewish and democratic state. The court was specifically concerned with the local authority’s obligation to follow the law and not selectively enforce it. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to use this occasion to discuss the character of Shabbat in general and in Israeli society in particularly and why the entire state of Israel, as well the Diaspora, should embrace, observe and celebrate Shabbat and not defy it.

During the 2006 second Lebanon War, Nurit Greenger, referenced then as the “Accidental Reporter” felt compelled to become an activist. Being an ‘out-of-the-box thinker, Nurit is a passionately committed advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States, and the Free World in general. From Southern California, Nurit serves as a “one-woman Hasbarah army” for Israel who believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.

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