Today I’m three dollars richer. This is because I didn’t play the Powerball lottery even though when I see a significantly large jackpot I usually do so. If you ask me, why didn’t I?
I have two explanations. Firstly, I figured if I would win the largest jackpot it would place too much unwarranted focus on me… But in truth, on Tuesday afternoon I didn’t have any cash on me as I passed Frank’s newsstand, and I didn’t care to borrow a few dollars from a friend, out of concern that if I win, I would have to split the pot with my partner :).
All kidding aside, everyone dreams about what they would do with their winnings. In the office that my son Tzvi works there was an office lottery pool – contract and all. One of the participants mentioned that she would give the Red Cross $25 if she won… Some dream big and then some…
A relevant insight. Generally speaking, a person’s position is based on their worth and holdings. However, on one day of the week one’s true value and essence becomes apparent; on the Shabbat. Yes, of course, titles and positions are retained during the Shabbat, however, the barriers between us based on our status or standing are removed on Shabbat because of Shabbat’s universal limitation on working, conducting business, or carrying one’s wallet. On Shabbat each of us is transformed into the real me!
This Shabbat has been globally dedicated to promote the Shabbat experience and meaning to all Jews.
The following presentation of “Shabbat at a Glance” is a walkthrough of the observances of a Shabbat experience.
Shabbat at a Glance
Today it is common for one to be extended an invitation to spend and experience a Shabbat with an observant family. You may be certain there will be delicious food; however you may be apprehensive because you are not familiar with what is permitted and what is forbidden on the Shabbat.
When one arrives at his host Friday afternoon, he may be overcome by the waft of delicious food that envelops the home. This may be one of the most difficult parts of the Shabbat stay….having to wait to eat the meal until services are over.
Lights are not manually turned on or off on the Shabbat, therefore when one is getting settled in his room, he may notice either a night light or a specially outfitted ‘Shabbat’ lamp that allows one to twist a shade over the light without turning it on or off. If you see lights around the house turning off and on during Shabbat it is because they were regulated by a preset time clock.
In the bathroom one may not rip toilet paper but tissues from the box and flushing the toilet are permitted. When one is washing, bar soap and turning on the hot water is prohibited, however cold water and liquid soap are permitted.
Brushing teeth with toothpaste is prohibited, however, mouthwash is permitted. Showers, shaving and application of makeup are all done before Shabbat. The use of deodorant or perfumes sprayed onto one’s body is permitted.
One dresses in his finest clothing for the Shabbat, and must make sure to leave his wallet, money, change, check book, cell phone etc. behind. Men who generally leave for Shul before the onset of Shabbat may ride in a car. The women remain at home to light the Shabbat candles.
One may not carry anything outdoors on the Shabbat. However, if there is an Airuv in the community one may carry outdoors, both in one’s hand or in one’s pocket. Items permissible to be carried on Shabbat are; tissues, keys, baby carriages, food and pills. Where there is no Airuv, many homes have combination locks for entry.
The lady of the house lights the Shabbat candles. There are at least two, and sometimes several candles in the candelabra. She first lights the candles and then “waves in” the Shabbat with her hands. She cover her eyes and then recites the blessing. She will usually continue standing in front of the flames reciting prayers on behalf of her family. A guest may be asked if she wants to light your own candles. Why not, go for it! The host will be willing to assist one who needs direction.
The transformation to the Holy and tranquil spirit of Shabbat is tangible!
At synagogue, a relatively short Mincha – afternoon – service is recited. The Synagogue will usually have an English translated Siddur – prayer book – such as the Artscroll Siddur that is excellent for both the novice and skilled Davener.
Kabalat Shabbat – welcoming the Shabbat service – consists of the recitation of six Psalms followed by the melodious chant of a ten stanza poem of ‘Lecha Dodi”. At the last stanza, the congregation turns around to face the back of the synagogue as a gesture of welcoming the Shabbat.
Maariv – evening service – is then recited. After the service handshakes accompanied by the greeting of Good Shabbat or Shabbat Shalom are exchanged by the congregants. The men return home from Shul in approximately an hour’s time.
Eventually everyone assembles at the table and preliminary songs, such as ‘Shalom Alichem,’ will be sung. A ‘Bencher’ – a song book – may be placed at your setting and someone will assist with showing the place. Hum along if it is unfamiliar.
They will often sing, “Aishes Chayil – a woman of valor.” This is a fitting tribute and acknowledgement to the woman of the home who typically has done or coordinated all the preparations, shopping and arrangements for the Shabbat.
Kiddush over wine or grape juice will be recited by the man of the house. The Kiddush begins while all are standing, follow the lead when to sit down. All you have to do is respond Amain after the two blessings. At the conclusion of Kiddush each person will receive some wine in a cup.
During Kiddush – we express G-d’s sanctification of the seventh day during the creation of the world and that the Shabbat laws relate to us since we were miraculously freed from Egypt and chosen to be the emissaries of G-d to imitate His resting on the seventh day.
After Kiddush, everyone will rise and go to the sink and wash their hands before eating Challa/bread. Hands are washed with a large cup which usually has handles. The cup is filled and two dashes of water are poured first over the entire cupped right hand, and then on the left hand. While drying your hands you will recite the blessing ‘Al Netilas Yadayim” Someone will help with the blessing if need be.
After washing the hands talking is prohibited until one partakes of the Challa. Two loaves of Challah emerge from under a covering and a mark with the knife will be made on top of the Challah that will be cut. The blessing of Hamotzie will be recited, to which all will respond Amain. After the Challah is cut, dipped in salt and tasted, talking resumes.
During the meal conversations on all topics will be discussed, traditional songs will be sung and an insight on the weekly Parsha will be said. Feel free to ask for clarification. If there are young children, often they will be asked questions on the Portion of the Week from a list that they brought home with them from school. Enjoy the interaction and the many delicacies that are served!
If one offers to help in the kitchen, to serve or clear off, one will notice that everything that has to be heated or cooked has already been on the stove or in the oven. The stovetop will be covered by a thin metal sheet. This serves to conceal the flame as a protection so that one does not higher or lower the flame on Shabbat, it also serves other functions as well. One may also become aware of some of the guidelines concerning the preparation of food on Shabbat. For example, there is no active cooking, baking, grinding, kneading or selecting by removing something unwanted from a mixture.
At the conclusion of the meal, a cup of water that sits on top of a small basin may be passed around the table for each person to gently wash their hands, then the ‘Benching’ – grace after meals will be recited.
After the meal the family will either remain at the table continuing to converse or move to a less formal setting i.e. living room. Board games that are non electronic and do not require writing or coloring may be played on Shabbat. It is common to visit friends, neighbors or attend an inspiring Torah gathering held in the Synagogue or a private home.
One will notice that during the Shabbat, the phone is not used. If it does ring, it will not be answered. The TV, washing machine, computers, PDA’s etc. will not be used or even moved. On Shabbat, there is no watering flowers or gardening; haircutting, sewing, writing, erasing, painting, cutting to size, building, demolishing, creating a fire or extinguishing a fire – unless it poses imminent danger.
The laws of Shabbat are derived from the fact that the Torah prohibited the Jews from building the Mishkan – Holy Temple on the Shabbat. There were 39 categories (and subcategories) of creative activities carried out in the process of building of the Temple. G-d prohibited the building of the Temple on Shabbat. So too, He prohibited us from performing these actions on the Shabbat. The actions are not necessarily prohibited because they require effort or work, rather, because they are deemed as creative actions and activities.
On Shabbat, whenever a person refrains from doing something prohibited for the sake and Sanctity of Shabbat, he attains spiritual strength that is uplifting, empowering and causes blessings to flow.
The restrictions of the Shabbat, without the distractions that cause us to detach from one another during the week, when shared by spouses, family members and friends are actually a glue that holds them together during the approximate 25 hours of the Shabbat.
After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to go to synagogue to pray the Shacharit – morning service. During the service the Torah scroll is taken out of the Ark and the portion of the week is read. Eight men will be called for an Aliyah – honor. They recite a blessing on the Torah before it is read and at the conclusion of that particular segment.
At the conclusion of the reading, the Torah scroll is lifted and its covering is replaced. The Haftorah, taken from the Book of our Prophets is chanted
The Rabbi will usually deliver the sermon at this point. The Mussaf – extra prayer service which details the Shabbat sacrificial service in the Temple is recited after the sermon.
After services, many synagogues host a Kiddush – light refreshments. If there is a special occasion, the Kiddush may resemble a lavish meal. Save your appetite because a complete meal will be served at the home of your host.
At the meal, a short Kiddush will be recited over wine/grape juice and the washing of the hands for the bread and blessings over the Challa will be performed like at the night meal.
During the main course of the meal a hot stew consisting of potatoes, meat, beans and/or barley is served. The name of this delicacy is called Cholent! It was prepared on Friday and remained on the fire/crock-pot.
After the meal, many take an afternoon nap, take a walk, read, study Torah or attend a class at the synagogue.
When the afternoon Mincha service is recited the Torah scroll is read again. This time only three men are called for honors and short segments of the upcoming week’s Torah portion is read.
Believe it or not we are not done with eating… a light third meal is eaten on Shabbat. No Kiddush is recited, but Challa is eaten. This meal is either eaten in the Synagogue or at home. There is singing during this meal as well. Maariv – evening service is recited following.
The Shabbat concludes at the appearance of three stars, this is at 43 minutes after sunset; however there are various customs that extend the Shabbat even longer.
The end of Shabbat is marked by reciting Havdalla. Havdalla means separation – when we formally separate the holy day of Shabbat from the mundane weekday. It begins with a blessing over a cup of wine/ grape juice, followed by a blessing over spices (a container will be passed around for everyone to sniff), a blessing is then recited over a torch of fire (the lights may be turned off and participants extend their hands towards the fire so that it reflects on their finger nails). Then the Havdalla blessing is said and the one who recited drinks from the cup.
The spiritual cocoon of the holy day of Shabbat is formally over and all restrictions are lifted but its afterglow lasts with us forever!
A salesman must generate interest in his product to produce good sales. However, the experience of a spiritually charged Shabbat actually sells itself!