Working on Shabbos

@Kesher We're Working on Shabbos

Dear Friend,

As a community, we would like to harness the energy surrounding the worldwide Shabbat Project (26-7 October 2018) and to use the weeks until ShabbatUK (1-2 March 2019) to upgrade and enhance our Shabbat experience. We want to ‘work on Shabbat’. And we need your help.
Brainstorm, suggest and test ideas that can make every Shabbat more meaningful, more precious, more authentic, more holy, more fun: For ourselves, our families our guests, our Kehillah, and all of Klal Yisrael.
It’s great (and indeed essential) to keep Shabbat but it’s even greater for it to be the priceless, indispensable, undisputed highlight of the week. What could make that happen? What little change or new idea would move the needle for you?
Think about three areas:

  • Preparing for Shabbat
  • Celebrating Shabbat
  • Observing Shabbat

Ideas can be your own, or something you have observed or read. It can be a helpful or inspiring custom, practice, or idea, or an aspect of the Laws of Shabbat which you may have recently learned or have come to especially value. No idea is too small or too quirky. If it works for you, it may work for others. Remember, we’re all “working on Shabbat”.

Week 1

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: One small thing

Preparing for Shabbat:

It is well known that although the mitzvah of Shabbat candles is incumbent equally on men and women, in a household setting the privilege of/responsibility for this mitzvah is the province of the woman. Nevertheless, the Ari (see OH 263:3 and MB 12) teaches that the husband should prepare the candles on behalf of his wife. Ie, she has the primary role, and he has a supportive role in illuminating the home on Friday night. In order to be certain to fulfil this minhag, and equally to avoid the last-minute rush (particularly on a “short Friday”) Rabbi Simon’s practice is to prepare the lights for Rebbetzin Ruthie when he returns home from shul after Shabbos the week before. Easy to do and part of preparing for Shabbos literally from the beginning of the week.

Week 2

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Don’t Crash into Shabbos

In the Preparing for Shabbat category, here’s an idea for Friday afternoon. Try it today!

You’re coming home from work or school or errands, at the end of a long week. You’re in a rush, you’re stressed, you may have left the office or class or store but it’s all still with you in your head. You’re approaching home like a speeding, laden locomotive. Unless you slow down and switch gears you’re going to crash into home. Or crash into Shabbos. Instead of bringing in Shabbos you’re bringing in stress and distraction.  

So here’s a simple idea- instead of just rushing through the door, wait outside for 2 minutes.  

Don’t use the phone, don’t move. Just imagine the weekday stress cooling down. The pressure is dropping.   

Shabbat is on the other side of that door.  

So decompress, take a breath and then go inside. As Abie Rotenberg sings, “it’s time to say good Shabbos” (click on it!).

Can’t spare the 2 minutes at the front door? Use the time on the train/bus/car to de-stress. No work emails, messages, reading or planning. Shabbos is on its way!

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 3

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Dress for the Queen

Nothing quite compares to the atmosphere of a Shabbos meal: The warmth, the camaraderie, the traditional (or even avant-garde) food and fine wine, the singing and words of Torah make it into something much greater than just dinner or lunch. A lot of work goes into all aspects of making this happen, but one in particular that gets little attention is the food shopping.

It is understable, maybe inevitable, to see food shopping as a chore, a burden to be endured. It certainly does take work, preparation and plenty of shlepping. But where would be without that effort? Shopping is literally what puts food on the table. We might say that Shopping puts the ‘Sh’ into ‘Shabbos’.

So it’s only fair that we rethink shopping, and that we acknowledge and connect Wednesday or Thursday’s onus with Friday and Saturday’s ‘oneg. As the Sages put it, in a metaphor for life itself, “one who toils on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos.”

Major League baseball teams do something similar with their preseason work. They toil and prepare during February—known as Spring Training–in order to be ready for the main season. Work first, enjoy the benefits of your efforts later.

Shopping is no different; it’s part of the preseason or Spring Training of Shabbat.

So our idea of the week is a simple one, which is to look at Shabbat shopping in a new light.

Here it is in three easy steps:
1. Consider the time and effort it takes to do the weekly shopping.
2. Enjoy your Shabbat meals and take just a moment to think about that effort and how everything on the table came from someone’s exertsoins in the days prior to Shabbat
3. Next week when you shop strive to turn the chore into a Shabbos building investment

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 4

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Stepping Up: Learn a page of the Laws of Shabbat at the table

The Chofetz Chaim wrote Mishnah Berurah, an authoritative halakhic guide which remains indispensable until today (110 years after its publication). In the Introduction to the Laws of Shabbat, he quotes the 18th-century sage Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschutz that one who endeavours to observe Shabbat fully and correctly will nevertheless struggle to do so without error week by week unless s/he studies and reviews the (sometimes complex) laws thoroughly. Since “Rome was not built in a day,” a practical and accessible strategy is to learn a small section of these laws every week. And what better setting than at the Shabbat table at every meal? Choose a suitable text, such as Rabbi JJ Neuwirth’s (English version in 3 vols.) Shemirath Shabbath, or another, perhaps simpler or even more specialised book, and your Shabbat expertise will grow week by week.

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 5

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Your Place

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 6

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Always Better

This week’s idea is borrowed from the world of manufacturing:

One of the key principles in the manufacturing business is ‘Continuous Improvement’. It started with companies like Toyota. The idea is to focus on making small, ongoing, incremental improvements.

You might think that huge leaps forward would be the thing, but actually it is these small steps, every time getting a bit better, that really make the difference. In fact, there are thousands of people around the world whose primary job it is to identify, record, and implement these small changes.

‘Continuous Improvement’ can be applied to our Shabbat experience as well. What if we looked for one or two things each week, that we could do better next week? For instance, maybe I overslept this week – my temptation is to just forget or ignore it, and not do anything about it.

But if we adopt the mind-set of Continuous Improvement, if our goal is to keep getting better, to make every Shabbat as meaningful, fulfilling and authentic as it can be, I might approach this differently.

So get a small notebook and keep it near your Havdalah candle. Once Shabbat goes out, just write down those one or two things that you learned from this Shabbat. And then try to make next week that little bit better. Buy that alarm clock, get that light timer, or whatever the case might be.

This idea of Continuous Improvement doesn’t just come from the factory. We have a similar concept in Musar (character development) called Cheshbon Ha’Nefesh—spiritual accounting. One technique is to write down each week two areas you are pleased with and one aspect of your character or behaviour you wish to correct or improve.

So give it a try. Here it is in three easy steps:
1. Buy a notebook
2. Write down the small changes to make
3. Make the changes
Remember, with the Shabbat Enhancement Campaign, we’re all Working on Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom!

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 7

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Growth Through Torah

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 8

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Ready Steady Go!

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 9

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Pack Shabbos With You

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 10

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Customer Focus

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 11

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: The Gift of Distruption

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 12

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Shabbat of Peace

In the Friday evening service, the last blessing of the Shema concludes with the words “blessed are you, Hashem, Who spreads the canopy of peace upon us…” Similarly, when we return from shul we address the accompanying angels with the simple and eloquent song Shalom Aleichem, Peace unto you.

Indeed, the greeting “Shabbat Shalom” possibly coined by the Holy Ari himself, is on our lips from Friday morning until Shabbat ends the following night. Evidently Shabbos and Peace go together.

The problem is that although Peace and Shabbat are natural companions, for this very reason the yetzer ha-ra—the Evil Inclination—will seek to inject tension, stress and strife into the mix as the Holy Shabbos draws near. With this in mind, the 17th c. Kabbalist Rabbi Yishaya Horowitz, known by his major work, Shelah, cautions against allowing the fire of anger and argument to burn on Shabbat.

This is hinted to in the words of the Torah (Ex. Ch 35), “do not kindle a fire in your habitations on the Sabbath day.”

Even more so, my Friend for the Year, the 18th c. Rabbi Hayyim Yosef David Azulai, known as Chida, writes explicitly

The hours of Friday afternoon, as the Holy Sabbath approaches, are particularly at risk for tension and strife between husband and wife and among members of the household. The Forces of Negativity strenuously endeavour to foment arguments. The G-d-fearing person will therefore consciously suppress any impulse of impatience or judgementalism. On the contrary, he will seek only peace and conciliation.

It has even been suggested that this may be the source as well for the custom of tasting the Shabbos food on Friday afternoon—known as To’ameha and very popular in some circles. Just to be doubly sure that the food is prepared, and seasoned to general acclaim, so that all will look forward to enjoying it on Shabbat itself.

So please remember: Shabbat Shalom!

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 13

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Go Big on Shabbos

Our Sages teach us that one’s financial allocation for the year is determined on Rosh Hashanah—with the exception of that which is spent for the honour of Shabbos and Yom Tov. If you spend more, your revenue will increase to cover it. Spend less and you will not pocket the savings, as the money will merely be expended or even lost in other ways.

The Talmud relates that a man known as Yosef Mokir Shabbat (Yosef who honours the Sabbath) had in his neighbourhood a certain idolater who owned much property. Fortune-tellers advised him: Yosef Moker Shabbat will consume all your wealth. [So] he went, sold all his property, and bought an extravagant gemstone with the proceeds, which he set in his turban. As he was crossing a bridge a gust of wind blew it off and cast it into the water, where a fish swallowed it. Subsequently the fish was hauled up and brought [to market] late in the afternoon on Shabbat eve. They said: Who will buy it now? Yosef Mokir Shabbat, as he will always buy the best in honour of Shabbat! So they took it to him. He bought it, opened it, and found the priceless jewel inside. A certain old man met him [and] said: He who lends to Shabbat, Shabbat repays him.

There are very few areas in which it is permissible to test Hashem—yet this is one of them. Of course the fulfilment of Hashem’s promise may take months or years, and may not accord with the instant gratification which we crave. So this practice of spending extra on Shabbos should be done in accordance with the level of one’s faith. One person may buy elegant candlesticks for Shabbat, whilst another may need to borrow in order to enjoy meat or wine for the Shabbos meals. Whatever your level of finance or faith, cherish and beautify the mitzvah of Shabbos (and Yom Tov) in accordance with the mitzvah and the blessing. As the prophet Malachi teaches, “Hashem says, ‘Test Me, if you will, with this…I will open up the windows of the heavens and pour out upon you blessings.’”

So Go Big on Shabbos in three easy lessons

Step 1 – identify aspects of Shabbat you’d like to beautify
Step 2 – step up to the plate: Spend more on these items in a considered way with the intention of making Shabbat extra special for yourself, your family, and your guests
Step 3 – enjoy a 5 star Shabbat every week

Week 14

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Amazing Grapes: Kiddush

Kiddush—literally Sanctification–of Shabbos on Friday night is a mitzvah d’oraisa, a Torah obligation equally incumbent upon men and women. Here are a few relevant laws:

The cup must contain approximately 100cc of wine or grape juice, and should be filled to the top. 100 cc is about half the volume of a disposable plastic cup. However the actual cup used for kiddush should ideally not be disposable. It should be clean and not chipped, dented or damaged.

The one reciting kiddush must drink about 50cc

If wine or grape juice are not available, the evening kiddush may be recited on Challah, (and one would say hamotzi in place of borei peri ha-gafen)

One must make kiddush where eating, or at least within eyesight of where the meal will take place.

One should not delay long between kiddush and eating. Some even have the custom to wash their hands before kiddush, so they can eat immediately after.

The one who recites the kiddush, as well as the listeners, must have in mind that the kiddush is on behalf of all those present. This is a perfect time for mindfulness, to connect to the spirituality of Shabbos.

Daytime kiddush is a Rabbinic rather than a Torah obligation, incumbent on women as well as men.

In a case of need, one may recite the daytime kiddush on a glass of beer. If one is unable to drink an alcoholic beverage or grape juice, pure fruit juice may be used instead.

One who listens to kiddush is not required to drink, but many are accustomed to doing so, out of love of the mitzvah (or love of wine).

So, here it is in 3 EASY STEPS
🍇🍇1. Choose your beverage
🍇🍇🍇2 Focus your mind
🍇3 Drink, eat, and be holy🍷😇
L’chayim and Shabbat Shalom

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 15

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Chore no More

Nothing quite compares to the atmosphere of a Shabbos meal: The warmth, the camaraderie, the traditional (or even avant-garde) food and fine wine, the singing and words of Torah make it into something much greater than just dinner or lunch. A lot of work goes into all aspects of making this happen, but one in particular that gets little attention is the food shopping.

It is understable, maybe inevitable, to see food shopping as a chore, a burden to be endured. It certainly does take work, preparation and plenty of shlepping. But where would be without that effort? Shopping is literally what puts food on the table. We might say that Shopping puts the ‘Sh’ into ‘Shabbos’.

So it’s only fair that we rethink shopping, and that we acknowledge and connect Wednesday or Thursday’s onus with Friday and Saturday’s ‘oneg. As the Sages put it, in a metaphor for life itself, “one who toils on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos.”

Major League baseball teams do something similar with their preseason work. They toil and prepare during February—known as Spring Training–in order to be ready for the main season. Work first, enjoy the benefits of your efforts later.

Shopping is no different; it’s part of the preseason or Spring Training of Shabbat.

So our idea of the week is a simple one, which is to look at Shabbat shopping in a new light.

Here it is in three easy steps:

1. Consider the time and effort it takes to do the weekly shopping.

2. Enjoy your Shabbat meals and take just a moment to think about that effort and how everything on the table came from someone’s exertsoins in the days prior to Shabbat

3. Next week when you shop strive to turn the chore into a Shabbos building investment

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 16

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Think On It

Last week we talked about Shabbat shopping and the importance of preparation.
Each Shabbat we have the most amazing opportunity, we get to stand in front of the King of Kings when we pray.
We need to dress up and arrive on time, but that’s not the same thing as being mentally prepared in a “Shabbos state of mind.”
Meditation is one available preparation tool. A great book to read on this subject is Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.
The Talmud tells us about the “original devout ones” who would pause for a while, presumably to meditate, both before as well as after their prayers.
Closer to our own times, in 16th century Tzefat the Holy Ari and his followers would go out into the orchards on Friday afternoon as the sun inclined toward the horizon. There they would welcome Shabbat and commune with nature as the holy day approached.

Meditation does not have to be complicated, you don’t need an advance degree or a black belt in an esoteric discipline.
Start simple. It can be as easy as taking a few quiet minutes before shul – sit and close your eyes, focus on your breath, and let the world slow down. Just think about your upcoming appointment with the King of Kings.

Find whatever works for you, but put in the effort to prepare.

So here it is in 3 easy steps

1. Remember – you are in front of the King of Kings
2. Try it out – give it 3 minutes before Shabbat.
3. Learn more about meditation – try Aryeh Kaplan’s book or other authentic resources. Like Shabbos itself, the more you do it, the more you’ll like it.

Shabbat shalom

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 17

Shabbos Enhancement Idea of the Week: Table of Content

The Shabbat table is a beautiful, joyous and holy place. It is also a classroom.

We can appreciate this more by thinking about another sacred space, the Pesach Seder Table. A Seder is full of questions, and central to those questions is observing what’s on and around the table: The Seder plate, the cushions, the wine glasses, the salt water. These elements and the experience–reclining in our seats, opening the door for Elijah, “dipping twice”, make for a vibrant living classroom. We are prompted to ask questions and through that process we learn, we enjoy, and we are enriched. Our Working on Shabbos challenge for this week is to bring that to the Shabbat table every week.

An excellent way to do this is to prepare a question or two based on the Torah Portion of the week to stimulate thinking, discussion and debate. Draw inspiration from contemporary events, scientific breakthroughs, or perhaps what the children are learning in school. There are lots of resources for this, online and in print.

Another way we might do that is to borrow a leaf from the Pesach seder and find a Parsha prop and literally put it on the Shabbat table. Maybe it’s a plastic frog (as some do on Pesach) or perhaps it’s a picture of a Menorah or the tabernacle or a biblical coin. Something that prompts question and discussion, learning and engagement. Make your table, a Table of Content!

So here it is in three easy steps:

Step 1. Read about the Torah portion of the week. There are lots of great resources such as alephbeta.org. Choose something that speaks to you personally.

Step 2. Figure out how to put it on the table–be creative.

Step 3. Write down what you learned and share with others

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Week 18

Working on Shabbos

Over the last 18 weeks we have together pursued an inspiring Shabbat Enhancement Campaign. We call that Working on Shabbos.
It’s not “I once tried to upgrade my Shabbos experience” or “I hope to someday work on improving my Shabbos.” It is working on Shabbos, an ongoing project in the present tense. In the words of Working on Shabbos Week 6, it’s about “continuous improvement”: Always looking for ways to make Shabbos more meaningful, more precious, more authentic, more holy, more fun. Since Shabbos comes without fail every week, throughout our lives, this is an ongoing opportunity—as well as an ongoing challenge.
One thread that unites all of the suggestions throughout the 18 weeks of the Shabbos Enhancement Campaign is the importance of preparation. In the memorable phrase of Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik, אין קדושה בלי הכנה “there can be no sanctity without preparation”. Nowhere is this truer than for Shabbat, as the sanctity of the day necessitates preparation if only because so many weekday activities are restricted on the Holy Sabbath. At the most basic level, as the Sages taught, “One who exerts himself on Erev Shabbat [or earlier] will be able to eat on Shabbat. But if not, what will he eat?”
But going well beyond eating, our goal is to make the gift of Shabbat ever more authentic, uplifting, meaningful, enjoyable and relevant to our lives.
We have shared an array of tips, hints and minhagim (personal customs or practices)—from Go Big on Shabbos, Growth Through Torah, Dress for the Queen…and there are so many more. Find the ones that work for you and look forward to Shabbos every week!
In three easy steps:
1. Preparation is key
2. Choose the ideas that work for you, and add more of your own
3. Never stop working on Shabbos: It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

For a video clip of this concept follow this link to powtoon.

Questions & Answers
this week

Questions and Answers

Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Tzippy
***
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
Events / Calendar