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Shabbat (the Sabbath) is not simply about going to synagogue. It is a 25 hour spiritual, meditative, psychological, and intellectual process which involves a withdrawal from the normal consciousness of domination and control over time and space. On Shabbat we enter into a consciousness that is focused on awe, wonder, amazement, celebration, pleasure (through food, sex, and intellectual exchange), aloneness and community. As the psalm for Shabbat proclaims, "I rejoice in Your work, O God. I will exalt in the works of Your hands!"
All week long we are involved in getting and spending, in acting on the world to make it turn out the way we want. On Shabbat we cease from that whirlwind of activity. We change the mode from active to receptive. We embrace Mother Earth with joy and celebration, we sing songs to the sun and the moon and the stars. As we express our delight at God's creation, we are overwhelmed with the immense preciousness of Being.
In celebrating the world, we stand in reverence at the Source of all being. The Creator is beyond all our categories. Language allows us to re-identify the repeatable and publicly observable aspects of reality. But God is beyond all language, the Source of all Being. No wonder, then, that language is of such little avail.
As Abraham Joshua Heschel used to point out, there are two attitudes through which we can approach the world: one in which we seek to accumulate information in order to dominate, the other in which we deepen our appreciation in order to respond. "As civilization advances, the sense of wonder almost necessarily declines...Mankind will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living." Shabbat is the moment each week fully dedicated to responding with appreciation. It is, Heschel once said to me, greeting the world not with the tools we have made but with the soul with which we are born; not like a hunter who seeks prey but like a lover to reciprocate love.
Beyt Tikkun developed a manual for how to do Shabbat at home--and it comes together with a tape of all kinds of beautiful songs to sing for Shabbat.
Click hereto see a copy of this manual in PDF format. If you want to order a printed copy along with the cassette tape, send $18 to Beyt Tikkun, 951 Cragmont Ave, Berkeley, Ca. 94708. Or come to Beyt Tikkun services, usually held in San Francisco. Visit our calendar for upcoming events.
MORE ON SHABBAT
Click here for Rabbi Lerner's teaching on the practice of Shabbat.