Congregation Beth Israel

Congregation Beth Israel

Shabbat (in Hebrew)

For six days you may perform melachah, but the seventh day is a complete Sabbath, holy to the L-RD … it is an eternal sign that in six days, the L-RD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. -Exodus 31:15-17

What is Shabbat?

“Shabbat is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The word “Shabbat” comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest. ”

(“root”= A set of (usually) three consonants that conveys the central meaning of a Hebrew word. Prefixes, suffixes and vowels added to the root clarify the precise meaning.)

——quoted from Judaism 101 ——

Jewish Shabbat–the day of rest–begins at sunset on Friday and finishes Saturday night. Ok, so, what do they do on the day?

On Friday, May 17, 2013, I went to Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) with my old classmates to learn about Shabbat service (Obviously it appears that service of rabbi at a synagogue and driving a car are not considered “work”) .

What is Shabbat service? What is synagogue? For me, who grew up in Buddhism culture, everything excited my curiosity. Unfortunately, this is not a class, which Rabbi Dr. Davis always gives me answers for my dumb questions, I had to refrain from open mouth to satisfy my curiosity. Instead, I observed carefully.

When we entered the CBI’s beautiful building, about 15 people were gathering together in the Rotunda where light meals were served in the left corner.

“5:30 PM       Nosh,  6:15 PM       Shabbat Evening Service Honoring Stacy Rosenthal Special Oneg Shabbat to follow”

This was the schedule on the day.

What is “Nosh”… well, according to my dictionary, it is defined as  “to eat a snack” or “a light meal” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.) So, the food on the table might be a nosh.

Crackers, Hummus, diced cheese, snack vegetables, Noodle Kugel, and  marinade fish with vinegar were served as a nosh.  I have had a chance to attend a Catholic church when I visited my parents-in-law, but I have never seen such service. Did I try the food? Of course because I was so hungry!

I thought this light meal provided a great opportunity of socialization. People were greeting each other and having a pleasant chat, children looked happy with snacks. All of them were in semi-formal dress.

At 6:15 p.m. the Shabbat service began.

“The Oneg Shabbat this evening is …”

What is “Oneg” ? —Is this English? English is my second language, and I was not sure what it meant.

“Oneg Shabbat,  (Hebrew: “Joy of Sabbath”), informal Sabbath (or Friday evening) gathering of Jews in a synagogue or private home to express outwardly the happiness inherent in the Sabbath holiday. Now more social than religious, the group entertains itself with music, drama, community discussions, lectures, or the singing of religious melodies—all in keeping with the biblical injunction, “and call the Sabbath a delight” (Isaiah 58:13). Usually refreshments are provided to complement the congenial atmosphere and perpetuate in spirit the Talmud’s recommendation to eat three full meals that day.”

—quoted from Encyclopædia Britannica

Entering the Goldsmith Sanctuary (a huge lecture hall-like room), a blue covered thick book was given at the front door. The letter, “MISHKAN T’FILAN, A Reform Siddur” was seen on the hardcover.  Like a Japanese book, the book was opened to the right. In the center of the room, two candles were burning.

“Two candles are lit, representing the two commandments: zakhor (remember) and shamor (observe).” (Judaism 101)

The blue book was full of  the words of songs written in Hebrew with transcribes of the pronunciations and English. Singing together, it seemed they were remembering the time of Exodus and blessings of  God.

The most surprising thing to me was that Rabbi was playing a guitar and singing!!

Because the Oneg Shabbat this evening was special, honoring Stacy Rosenthal receiving her Master’s Degree in Religious Education from Hebrew Union College, we were not able to have a lecture from a Rabbi, but the service was peaceful, cheerful, and friendly.

About a hour later, the Onge Shabbat finished with serving a braided  sweet,  yellow bread called challah with apple juice.  Children were invited to the stage, and the Rabbi and the children sang a final song.

Everybody looked happy with their family. One of my friends said, “That looks like Communion in Christianity.”

It must be because Judaism is the root of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew.

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