The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath

A Day of Gratefulness

Rabbi Henry Glazer


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫לזכרו הקדוש‬

‫הרב אברהם‬ ‫יהושע‬ ‫העשל,זצ”ל‬

In grateful memory

Abraham Joshua Heschel A ʻREBBEʼ for all time


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Table of Contents
Introduction A Personal Preface: Prologue: Working on the Sabbath Listening, Blessing, Thanks and Praise Part 1- Listen: Be Mindful A Tree Alone-A poem Part 2 : Be Blessed “Taste and see how good is the Lord.” “Oneg”-the heart of the Sabbath Sights, smells, songs and sex on the Sabbath: The Gift of Torah Shabbes in Becket Part 3: Thank-Praise :Todah vʼTehilah The Sabbath Liturgy: Shacharit of Shabbat-Sabbath Morning Shabbat-A Day of Freedom Sabbath as a Gratefulness Meditation: How to begin? Epilogue: Personal gratitude 5 6 7 14 16 22 30 32 38 41 48 52 55 60 60 66 84 86 89 90 66


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness




The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫ש‬ ‫ב‬

Why another book on the Sabbath? The subject of the Sabbath has received the fullest attention from countless scholars, philosophers and rabbis as well as thinkers of all religious persuasions. Beginning with its first references in the Bible the Sabbath has expanded into a complex institution as a result of extensive commentary in the literature of the Rabbis -the Talmud, Midrash, legal codes, philosophical treatises and mystical documents. Over the centuries, the Sabbath has emerged as a pivotal institution in the life of the Jewish people and indeed in the experience of all humanity. Like the Torah whose meanings are indeterminate, the Sabbath, as a vital piece of Torahʼs mosaic of wisdom, likewise holds out multilayered strata of possible interpretation and meaning. For many, the Sabbath is seen either as a day guided by strict and unyielding religious behavior often impeding the embrace of the Sabbathʼs inner light, or is experienced as a day of leisure devoted exclusively to recreational, familial and ethnic experiences, leaving little room for the exploration of the dayʼs spiritual richness. My intention in presenting this book is to extract from the radiant crown of the Sabbath one gem that needs, I believe, further polishing to release its brilliance and beauty. The Sabbath invites us all to lend our hearts and minds to the task of renewed discovery within its limitless layers of holiness and blessing. For me, a jewel on the tiara of the Sabbath is that of gratefulness. Sabbath is many things -a day of rest, a holy day, a day of leisure, a day of prayer and study, a day of family bonding, a day of delight. What infuses the many facets of the Sabbath is the underlying opportunity it offers to rediscover life as a gift, experience gratitude for being alive, and articulate this gratefulness in many traditionally Jewish ways that are expressive and heartfelt As the Sabbath summons us to cultivate a heart of gratitude it likewise holds out the invitation to respond with generosity and compassion each day of the entire week.Not only does a day of physical rest rejuvenate the body, but the Sabbath replenishes and restores the soul with its vital essence so that the weekdays may be approached with the sanctified aura of each Sabbath day.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Sabbath becomes the wellspring not only of the bodyʼs rejuvenation but of the soulʼs renewal to find its home and touch the lives of others.

A Personal Preface:
In my early twenties I read Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschelʼs “The Sabbath” more than once as part of my seminary education. Sadly for me, its poetry and emotional depth collided with a closed heart. Thankfully, as I grew to understand the place of the heart in oneʼs spiritual life, I have re-read this masterpiece many times as one would read inspirational poetry or a sacred text, and today, with each reading, I rejoice like one “who has found great treasure.” In his brief treatise on the Sabbath, Heschel succeeded in releasing the brilliance of Sabbathʼs crown of glory to the great blessing of us all. I write this essay on the Sabbath as a humble “midrash,” a commentary, on a sacred text, Heschelʼs The Sabbath, and as a belated response of a grateful heart to a “poet” who has enlightened not only the hearts of Jews but the soul of all humanity as well. As a confused adolescent seeking a sense of specialness, a feeling of stabitlity and uniqueness in an emotionally turbulent world, I cloaked myself in the mantle of strict Orthodoxy, which included a rigid form of Sabbath observance.This immutable structure gave me a framework which would help, so I thought, in creating some coherence to the many disparate fragments of my emerging identity and sense of self. The Sabbath became a day of legalistic obsessiveness accompanied by the dread of the most minute of technical violations. It was my immature way of showing God and others my “extraordinary” piety .While others of my family and friends enjoyed the secular pleasures of a day free from work and school -matinee movies, Friday night television,Saturday morning sports - I attendied Sabbath services, read and passed the time in psychological isolation. Self- restriction and sacrifice further served the function of atoning for a range of unacceptable adolescent feelings touching on erotic stirrings and inclinations of violent rivalry with siblings and friends.Thus my Sabbath experiences were joyless, devoid of inner peacefulness and delight. I was locked into a web of regulation and restriction rather than freely embraced by the warmth of Sabbathʼs sacred stirrings. This relationship to the Sabbath continued for many years. My decision to enter the Rabbinate only exacerbated the difficulty of my relationship to the Sabbath; Shabbes became a day of demands for excellence in the pulpit and the excessive need for public approval. The day which proclaims freedom from the need for success,

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
approval and competition, became for me the very opposite. Instead of a “cathedral in time”-Heschelʼs remarkable metaphor- the Sabbath was a cathedral of conflict and fear. Years went by; new experiences and extended efforts at selfevaluation and understanding eventually bore fruit and lead to a new internal awareness of the Sabbathʼs majesty and delight. Unlike the earlier awareness which was intellectual and didactic in nature, my more open-hearted consciousness began to encompass the experience of the Sabbath as a day of deeper personal feeling and authenticity. It slowly emerged as a day of yearning, a day that touched the edges of my heart and soul. In particular, stepping into the world of Jewish spirituality softened my heart and illumined my mind to the richness and beauty of the Sabbath as the most precious time in oneʼs week. The practices of meditation and heart-directed contemplation paved the road to a loving embrace of the Sabbath day.



The Sabbath is so monumental an institution, so over-arching and multi-dimensional, one searches in vain for an underlying spiritual premise or theme that can simply and accurately capture the variegated richness and universal meaning embedded in the day. As a secular institution, the Sabbath is recognized and valued as a much needed day-off from work activity, an opportunity, even a necessity to relax from the strains and stresses of earning a livelihood or preparing to do so. All contemporary societies acknowledge the benefits of a day of rest and leisure as a basic human right.1 But the Sabbath is more than a legal or social institution; ”the Sabbath is not only ....a state of mind or a form of conduct, but a process in the world of spirit.”2 One major pillar of the Sabbath that upholds and sustains its spiritual significance is the obligation to cease from work.Beginning with the Bible, the Sabbath continues to evolve through the process of interpretation and application, creating many dimensions of understanding regarding the nature of work in each century and each location where Jews dwell.This process is on-going and each generation is challenged to re-discover the Sabbathʼs scope, beauty and blessing .According to the Talmud, the categories of work

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
associated with the construction of the Sanctuary in the wilderness during ancient Israelʼs sojourn to the Promised Land served as the foundation for all later interpretations and definitions of work. Why? Heschel informs us that, “On the Sabbath...we abstain primarily from any activity that aims at remaking or reshaping the things in space. What are the kinds of labor not to be done on the Sabbath? Those acts which were necessary for the construction and furnishing of the Sanctuary in the desert.The Sabbath itself is a sanctuary which we build, a sanctuary in time.”3 I understand Heschel this way; on the Sabbath we are invited to refrain from reshaping, recreating, adding, enlarging, improving upon the world as we have it. To do so is to suggest that the world is incomplete and imperfect, it is “not good!” By not working, by abstainiing from imposing our own designs on the world, we reaffirm the divine proclamation in the book of Genesis that the world is indeed “very good!”4 Thus Shabbat requires one fundamental spiritual response, namely to immerse ourselves in the wonders of the world as they are, and decipher the fingerprints of the Ultimate Source of All Things within it. Shabbat beckons us to rediscover the sacred sensations of a grateful heart. Heschelʼs revelation was his understanding of the Sabbath as a “palace in time,” bequeathing to us his profound insight that Judaism is a religion of time, and the Sabbath is a weekly gift of experiencing a foretaste of eternity.5 It is day.within the dimension of time when we can discover holiness, or the presence of God. The question that challenges me is: How do we personally, even viscerally, feel the holiness of the day? For me that holiness in time is arrived at when we are able to infuse time with gratitude for the gift of life. Six days a week are set aside for “tikun olam,” to repair the world, to work as partners with the Creator in improving the world. Shabbat by contrast signals a halt, a stepping back and taking stock of the gifts given to us by the Creative Source of the Universe. One could say that the inability to pause in the acts of doing and building even for a short time suggests an attitude of dissatisfation and discontent. Sabbath arrives and announces: Remember the Sabbath to keep it as a holy day by desisting from labor and recognizing the goodness of the world as it is and being grateful for this goodness.The day is intrinsically holy; we need not do anything active to transform the day into a


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
sacred period of time. All we have to do is pause and remind ourselves that the world is fine as it is; all that is required of us is to be thankful, to marvel at the marvelous. Instead of constructing edifices to “civilize” our environment and to impose the stamp of humanity upon it, Shabbat proclaims the utter fullness of life as it is, awaiting our grateful participation, awareness and receptivity. The responses of the Sabbath observer- prayer, study, festive eating and drinking, intimate relations with oneʼs partner, physical rest - are all natural reactions to that which has been given us. Shabbat allows us to be free and enjoy what is.The one spiritual requirement is to articulate in feeling, thought and word, our capacity to say “thank you” to the Giver of all things ‫ויכלו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם‬ -Then the heavens and the earth were completed.( Gen.2.1) The Aramaic translation of the Torah translates “vayechulu”-were finished as veʼishtachalu””were perfected.” The Sabbath day represents perfection and with it the response of profound gratefulness for the perfect day Leon Weiseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, shares a brilliantly written essay titled “Outcome and Experience” in which he captures the philosophical essence of the Sabbath day. ”I am wary of finding myself in the middle of an existence too busy, too arrogantly busy, for elementary things. I inhabit a universe in which busyness is a measurement of importance; but really what is taking place is an exchange of one variety of importance for another. It is often a bad bargain, is a petty redemption when the imperative of time management gives way before the imperative of time enhancement...against the principle of outcome one must defend the principle of experience...Many people live most of their lives in the interregnum.They cannot bite the day, as the poet says, to the core....Now we are to be wide instead of deep, nimble as clickers and cursors, never idle and never still..”6 The Sabbath summons us to be still,idle, in order to experience the elementary things of life.In the midst of this detachment from busyness, we make friends with our world and feel deep gratitude for this friendship.If we wish to discover the freshness of each moment, its fullness and richness, we need to slow down.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

To sanctify the Sabbath as prescribed by tradition, an honest and open hearted sense of gratefulness is indispensable. Paradoxically, this attitude of gratefulness bears with it a deep potential for repair of the world during the other days of the week as well. As we emerge refreshed spiritually, and having regained our sight of the world as a gift, we find ourselves more inclined to share that gift with others, and in this way, live out the weekdays with a sense of generosity and kindness.This idea that gratitude activates generous and compassionate responsiveness to the world is profoundly articulated by Lewis Hyde in his book The Gift: “I would like to speak of gratitude as a labor undertaken by the soul to effect the transformation after a gift has been received. Between the time a gift comes to us and the time we pass it along, we suffer gratitude Passing the gift along is the act of gratitude that finishes the labor.”7

‫ו‬ ‫י‬ ‫כ‬ ‫ל‬ ‫ו‬
heaven and earth were c o m p l e t e


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

God r e s t e d ‫שבת‬

In the popular mind, Sabbath means rest. Resting means more than relaxing the body or not being engaged in any strenuous physical activity. In fact the Hebrew word for rest is incorporated in the term Shabbat. “And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy because on it He rested-“shavat”-‫ -שבת‬from all the work of creation He had done.8 Only from the perspective of gratefulness for what is on this day of non-doing can we understand the rationale of Jewish lawʼs insistence that down to the tiniest and most elementary of activities, one needs to be attentive to the possibility of crossing the line between impacting our world in a direct way and allowing the world to be, without the slightest interference. Nevertheless, exclusive preoccupation with prohibitions, without an internal mindfulness of this systemʼs rationale in cultivating gratefulness on this day, is to betray the soulfulness of the day for the arid and lifeless mechanics of disembodied behavior. Such a view makes Shabbat a burden, not a blessing. Why Shabbat? From a religious point of view a satisfying answer could be to emulate God by resting; as He rested so do we have the obligation to rest. Another response could be understood in terms of obeying all of Godʼs laws pertaining to this day and as such we make this day one of dedication to divine authority and to the will of God. For the traditionalist, the above can be fully satisfactory. My understanding doesnʼt preclude the nature of this kind of relationship to the Sabbath. I prefer however, to expand the context of Sabbath celebration to embrace those who may not share the formal conventional connection that is rooted in a more conventional belief in God. I believe that all human beings have the capacity and spiritual need to consecrate one day a week during which to pay full attentiveness, in mind, body and heart, to the giftedness of life and the world, and then begin to convert time from a context of petition to one of praise, from a setting of dissatisfaction to one of utter gratefulness. I pray the following pages will help serve that purpose.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

There are times when a universe of thought is contained in one word. Hebrew, in particular, is a language rich in multiplicities of meaning. We know from Jewish tradition, especially the mystical strain of that heritage, that language, especially Hebrew, “reflects the fundamental spiritual nature of the world; in other words, it has mystical's common language...reflects the creative language of God.”9 As a frame of reference around which I shall construct my presentation, I have made use of the Hebrew word for the Sabbath, ‫ “ ,שבת‬shabbat,” discovering in each of its three letters- ‫“ - ש-ב-ת‬Shin- Bet-Tav”-an acronymn that spells out the essential meaning of the Sabbath as a day of gratefulness. Taking each of the three Hebrew letters of the word Shabbat, I assign to each one a particular reference to a fundamental principle and dimension of the Shabbat experience and potential . These three letters symbolize and encompass the core essence of Sabbath as a divine opportunity to discover and incorporate gratefulness in our lives. Shin ( ‫ ) ש‬suggests exercising one of the basic capacities of the human mind and heart, one called upon by Jewish tradition daily-Shema-‫ -שמע‬listen, give heed, pay attention to. Shabbat is designed as a gift to the Jewish people and to the world by which one is given the time and opportunity to pay attention, to

‫ש‬ ‫ב‬


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
listen with heart mind and soul, to the fullness of life and the world around us. The second letter, Bet ( ‫ ,) ב‬is the first letter of beracha-‫ ברכה‬blessing.(It is also the first letter of the Torah-Bereishit -‫ )בראשית‬The middle letter of Shabbat-‫-שבת‬is the heart a n d core of the Sabbath reality, that of a world and life of blessing, the gift of God's love. The third letter, Tav (‫ ,)ת‬points to the p o ssibility and necessity of a human response to the awareness of blessing in one's lifeTehillah,Todah-‫ :תודה- תהילה‬prayerful praise, thanksgiving, gratitude.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

Working on the Sabbath
Baking bread is not hard cooking corn is easy too Barebecuing in the yard Or heating up cholentA Sabbath stew Yet all these things and plenty more Forbidden flings Fill legal lore All kinds of work “Thou shall not do!” Resting is your perk even animals in the zoo There is some toil yet left undone not the holiness to spoilto find our place in the sun. Mary Oliver, a bard for all time the soul she can stir with words sublime Life’s purpose, she states, In ways so direct, Transcending fates if we so elect. “My work,”she unfurled, banner in the breeze, “Is loving the world” its wines and its teas. Is that not exactly What Shabbat’s supposed to be To love all Creation From sea to shining sea




The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
To sit by the window In winter or fall And witness pure snow Or autumn’s rusty sprawl To gaze at the sky And wonder aloud How endlessly high Beyond every cloud And as we look clear and deep into every nook a treasure keep our heart fills up hardly catching a breath overflowing our cup even ready for death I finally see Sabbath’s great mystery Not the hand’s heavy labor But the heart’s love to savor.



peace pax salam la paix la paz


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

Listening, Blessing, Thanks and Praise Listen - “shema” -‫שמע‬ How do we listen ?
By Remembering By Refraining By Rejoicing

Blessing - “beracha” ‫ברכה‬ How do we bless?
“And God blessed-‫ -ויברך‬the seventh day and blessed it” (Genesis 2:3)

Thanks and Praise “todah vʼtehilah”-‫תודה‬ ‫ותהילה‬ Why do we praise?


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness Introduction:
A day so happy. Fog lifted early, I walked in the garden. Hummingbirds were stopping over Honeysuckle flowers. There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess. I knew no one worth envying him. Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot. To think that the same man did not Embarrassed me. In my body I felt no pain. When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.10

‫מתנה‬ ‫טובה‬ ‫יש לי‬ ‫בבית גנזי‬


It has been said that the “Sabbath is an incubator for wisdom.” Like an incubator that provides the warmth and moisture necessary for a babyʼs physical growth, so too can Shabbat be seen as a setting in time that offers us a way of being, thinking and feeling for one day, a way of listening that nurtures our hearts, bodies and souls. Six days a week we are tempted and trapped by the seductions of the market place. The world of commerce conquers our souls with the message that the more we have, the happier and more blessed we become. If we only buy what the purveyors of merchandise have to sell, our troubles will dissolve, our lives will be sweet and happiness will be achieved. The unmistakable American message is: “We are blessed only if we are wealthy.” This message propels our efforts, sacrifices, energies and commitments throughout the six days of the work week. The headlines of a recent New York Times article pierces the heavens with the cry of ingratitude in todayʼs contemporary world. “The Millionaires Who Donʼt Feel Rich,” it announced. The front page item proceeded to describe a community of working-class millionaires in Silicon Valley, California, “accomplished and ambitious members of the digital elite (who) still do not think of themselves as particularly fortunate, in part because they are surrounded by people with more wealth-often a lot more… ʻyou look around,ʼ Mr. Barbagallo said, ʻand the pressures to spend are everywhere. Children want the latest fashions their peers are wearing and the most popular high-ticket

I Have a



the Sabbath

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
toys. …Spouses talk, and now that resort in Mexico the family enjoyed so much last winter is not good enough when looking ahead to next year…ʼ To Mr. Milletti, it all looks like a marathon with no finish line. ʻHere the top one percent chases the top one-tenth of one percent, and the top one-tenth of one percent chases the top one-one-hundreth of one percent,ʼ he said.”11 The Sabbath teaches us a totally different lesson. On the Sabbath, free of the distractions and busyness of everyday life, we are able to listen to another voice, our own godly voice, the still, small voice that utters a different message from that of the weekday. “We are wealthy because we are blessed and we take time to bless.” We listen-‫ ,שמע‬to the reality of blessing-‫,ברכה‬ and we take time to bless, to articulate praise and thanks,‫ .תהילה ותודה‬The awareness of the richness in our lives, however diversified and heterogeneous, is a fundamental source of feeling blessed, given to, honored, singled out for care and love, worthwhile and dignified. The Sabbath allows us to take the time to

‫כי‬ ‫טוב‬ It was G o o d


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
understand an ancient insight of our Rabbis about the meaning of life:

“Who is rich? Those content with their portion.”12
Because the Sabbath is so opportune a time during which to perceive life and the world differently, gratefully, as a blessing, it affords us the extra soulfulness by which to not only feel blessed, but to bless others. Indeed, as will be shown, from the Sabbathʼs first moments of release and surrender until its final fluttering with the fading sun on the following day, words of blessing fill the day to the brim- we bless our wives, our husbands, our children, our friends, the produce of the land, our God. In fact the blessing of the Sabbath is best understood as an expression o f thanksgiving for the wealth contained in each and every object of our blessing. ‫ש‬


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
“Whatever is foreseen in joy

Must be lived out from day to day. Vision held open in the dark By our ten thousand days of work. Harvest will fill the barn; for that The hand must ache, the face must sweat. And yet no leaf or grain is filled By work of ours; the field is tilled And left to grace. That we may reap, Great work is done while we’re asleep. When we work well. A Sabbath mood Rests on our day, and finds it good. 13
Wendell Berry


Sabbath is essential for the connection to our humanity and for the natural preservation of our planet. While recognizing the human need and ability to control and improve upon nature in order to “civilize “ life, many scientists, and theologians alike, bemoan the increasing blindness of humanity to the vulnerability of Nature and to its pauperization.We ignore our natural origins and instead set our sights on the “syntheticizing” of life and the world through techno-scientific revolution. If ever there was an institution or pattern of living that insisted on the sacred stewardship of our world, it is the Sabbath. One day a week, without exception, our compulsion to control and conquer nature is constrained. In place of the triumph of technology, the Sabbath is transformed into a time of grateful trust. “Great are the laws that govern the processes of nature. Yet without holiness there would be neither greatness nor nature.”14 O.E.Wilson, the distinguished sociobiologist and Pulitzer Prize winner, passionately reminds us of our need for greater humility, in spite of his utter dependence on science. “Homo Sapiens is a species confined to an extremely small niche. True, our minds soar out to the edges of the universe, and contract inward to the subatomic particles…in this respect our intellects are godlike. But letʼs face it; our bodies stay trapped inside a proportionately microscopic bubble of physical constraints…This protective shield is the biosphere, the totality of all life, creator of all air,cleanser of all water, manager of all soil, but itself

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
a fragile membrane that barely clings to the face of the planet. Upon its delicate health we depend for every moment of our lives.”15 Not only is our physical survival dependent upon the fullness of nature but so too our psychological and spiritual well-being, our very human-ness and sanity. “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.” 16



The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫שמע‬ Part 1- Listen: Be Mindful Zachor- Remember - ‫זכור‬
“We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember”17 The Bibleʼs injunctions regarding the Sabbath are not many. They stand out however, since they constitute the fourth of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:8 we are bidden to remember –“zachor”- ‫ -זכור‬the Sabbath day, its rationale being associated with the creation of the world: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them and He rested on the seventh day.”(v.11) We remember Creation, a moment of absolute wholeness and peace, a moment of


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Creation's completion, the giving of the world to humanity as God's greatest gift.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫את יום‬ ‫השבת‬

R e m e m b e r
the Sabbath Day

Shabbat is a gift of living in the present, the past being a frame of reference for the perfection of the present. Likewise, Shabbat is viewed as an eternal moment, the anticipation of an ideal future-the end of days which are Messianic in nature-being contained in the here and now. To pay attention, tradition has formulated a pattern and process of experiencing a full day in a particularly attentiveness-raising manner, in the form of a unique liturgy and a set of rituals and practices. By carefully examining parts of the Sabbath liturgy we can fully appreciate the power of Sabbath prayer to help us crystallize our ability to pay attention to a new voice, to discover an “old-new” spiritual reality in our lives. To remember the Sabbath is to be spiritually mindful and attentive to the message of the Sabbath as a day of recognizing the reality of blessing in our lives, to touch the gratefulness and sanctity embedded in that day. If we read the letters that constitute the Hebrew word for remember “zachor”- ‫ – זכר‬backward (from left to right)-we construct the word -“rachoz”- ‫-רכז‬which means to concentrate, to make central and all-important.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Furthermore, “thank” is derived from “think” as “I will think on it”, or remember. The entire scope of Sabbath prayer-through song, word and meditation, is designed to contribute to our ability to cultivate a greater sense of mindful consciousness of the uniqueness of the Sabbath as a day during which we acknowledge our lives, the world, Nature, as the invaluable gifts of our existence. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” I have always been perplexed by the religious term- holy, ‫”-קדוש‬kadosh”- which lies at the very core of the entire edifice of Judaism. While meanings abound,, the term remains abstract, if not out of reach. “Holy” has been defined as “special,” “separate,” “set aside.” We refer to God as holy; religious items i.e. the Torah, are holy, and the Sabbath day itself is regarded as having been hallowed by God to be continuously sanctified by Israel and the human community. How is that done? How do we make the Sabbath or anything else, for that matter, holy? If we accept the commonly held definitions of “speci a l,” “set aside,” “unique,” how do we separate the Sabbath from the rest of the week?


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Many make the day special by setting aside the Sabbath for some special event or activity- a sports event, a concert, a visit to the museum, a day at the beach-and in this way, the Sabbath is “set aside!” But is it “holy?” All religious traditions search for the experience of the sacred,the numinous. My question remains: Is there an essential characteristic, a common denominator, a thread that runs through this spiritual enterprise that points to a spiritual reality shared and understood by all as one of sanctity and holiness? Furthermore, how do we wrap our minds and hearts around such an abstract concept in the course of a particular twenty-four-hour period of time? Rabbi Joseph B.Soloveitchik captures the merging of the holy and the aesthetic, in the following words: “The cosmic drama impresses us with its orderliness and reverence.These emotions are represented by adoration of the Author of this beautiful awe-inspiring drama...God is experienced ecstatically as the artist whose creation abounds in grace and loveliness...the beauty of God is experienced in holiness...”18 Revisiting the commandment –“Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy”- may give us a clue. In terms of the natural order of things, the Sabbath is like any other day of the week. The sun shines in exactly the same way it does on the other days of the week. Rains fall, winds blow, even hurricanes hoist upon us their devastation. What differentiates the Sabbath is an act of remembrance, a response of listening, the inward, mindful and soulful awareness and acknowledgement of the world and life as a gift by an Ultimate Giver. What converts the day into a source of the sacred, what “makes it Holy,” is the prior act of “Remember the Sabbath day …in six days God made the heavens and the earth.” Godʼs holiness is contained in the divine identity of God as Giver and Creator of all things. We in turn share in and reflect that holiness by our experience of acknowledgement and thanksgiving. Gratefulness is the nexus of holiness shared by the human and God. ”And God saw all that He made and it was very good.” The fact of the worldʼs goodness is sacred because God declared it as such. But before the goodness of the world can be transformed into a reality of holiness, man has to meet God “halfway” by remembering the goodness of creation and responding gratefully to the Giver for this

‫ש‬ ‫מ‬ ‫ע‬

Take Notice

Be Mindful

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
goodness. “What brings God and humanity together (on the Sabbath) is the mutual act of hallowing.”19

‫קדוש‬ ‫קדוש‬ ‫קדוש‬
‫מלא כל הארץ כבודו‬

Holy Holy Holy His Glory fills the universe


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
One particular psalm, Psalm 19, captures the fullness and essence of the Sabbath as a day of listening.This Psalm, in fact, is recited only on the Sabbath and Festivals. “The heavens declare the glory of God The sky proclaims His Handiwork. Day after day the word goes forth Night after night the story is told Soundless the speech, Voiceless the talk, Yet the story is echoed throughout the world.” Every day, every moment, is a reflection of the continuation of Creation, an unfolding of God's uninterrupted capacity to renew creation and sustain the miracle of that first amazing cosmic moment.The story is on-going, unfolding every day of every week. But, it is only on the Sabbath, without the distractions of work and the need to conquer, are we afforded a day-long gift during which we can lie back and listen, observe the gift around us and relish all its wonder. He or she who loves God, will look most deeply into His works. Clouds are not only vapor, but shape, mobility, silky sacks of nourishing rain. The pear orchard is not only profit, but a paradise of light. The luna moth, who lives but a few days, sometimes only a few hours, has a pale green wing whose rim is like a musical notation. Have you noticed?20
Mary Oliver

‫ה‬ ‫ש‬ ‫מ‬ ‫י‬ ‫ם‬

Shabbat is the time to take notice of the treasures of the world and rediscover thankfulness in our hearts. Shabbat is story-telling time. Nature is a narrative without words, full of drama, excitement and joy. On Shabbes, we enjoy the privilege of hearing this tale of timeʼs movement through space and at the same moment catch a glimpse of time standing still. The universe in all its silent glory utters a moment of eternity on this day of gratefulness. Like children enchanted by the unfolding of some fairy-tale, each of us is invited on Shabbat to listen to the magical mystery of lifeʼs mesmerizing miracle.

the heavens tell the story

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
As we witness the narrative unfold, we gasp with gratefulness at the grandeur of it all. As an audience we are overcome by grateful awe. And we applaud with praise and acclaim the Author of this magnificent epic.

‫השמש‬ ‫כחתן‬ ‫מחופתו‬

“The sun from its tent in the heavens

comes out like a bridegroom from his chamber exulting and eager as a champion to run his course From the rim of the east it rises To sweep in majesty upward, Westward, warming all on earth as it passes.” On the Sabbath we bask in the sunʼs rays of warmth and clarity, aware of its life-giving energy. The sun also rises like a bridegroom, which brings us back to the night before when we experienced the Sabbath as a bride and we greeted her with the love and yearning that only a bridegroom could understand. Now, at the peak of the day, the love of bride and bridegroom, Shabbat and Israel, flood the world with climactic beauty and joy like the sun pouring out its rays upon the earth. Drenched in the brightest light of Shabbatʼs luminescence, we yield to the fullness and saturation of the dayʼs perfection. It is no wonder that the popular custom of an afternoonʼs nap is an integral part of the Sabbath experience. With such wholeness of feeling, we let go and like Adam fall into a deep slumber of trust and surrender.

The sun.. like a lover from his canopy


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

A Tree Alone-A poem
I pray alone, When in the country far, Without a congregations’s drone Under sun and lonely star On wooden deck, wrapped in summer breeze, A tiny human speck Amidst a world of trees And as the wind freely blows, A welcome chill it brings, A tingle in my sandaled toes My heart elated sings With swaying trees in dance, I watch graceful bows, perhaps the very last chance To forget the whys and hows Blessed I feel , on this fine day my heart to heal not a single thing to say, For being in moment’s solitude, With nothing but tree and me Pouring forth with gratitude To be in God’s company Each tree, straight and tall branches bending toward others green leaves not ready to fall like lips of aching lovers. I listen to the breeze, watch leaves bend and dance, Who needs a cantor’s recitatives When outdoor melodies, en-trance


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Torah’s chanting do I hear Not written on a scroll, But chirpings, pure and clear, Enchant my yearning soul And for sermon, deep and wise, A rabbi I need not, The silence in my life’s surprise With knowledge is it fraught. A butterfly, just passing by, beyond all beauty, blessing, I really reach and really try The endless praise, at best it’s only guessing And so I wish each bird and tree, A peaceful Sabbath day, My country prayer community If only I could stay.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫ברכה‬ Part 2 : Be Blessed
A second prominent reference to the Sabbath day is the second version of the Ten Commandments in the book of Deuteronomy. “Observe, fulfill, (keep) the Sabbath day to make it holy...the seventh day is holy to the Lord your God, do not do any work on it.” (Deut. 5:12) Inseparable from the experience of the Sabbath is the necessity to refrain from work. Knowing the adverse reaction many have to living under a veil of restriction, especially when the purpose of the Sabbath institution is freedom, how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? The following citation provides us with an illuminating insight. “The Sabbath is a patch of ground secured by a tiny fence; when we withdraw from the endless choices afforded us and listen, uncover what is ultimately important, remember what is quietly sacred, Sabbath restrictions on work and activity actually create a space of great freedom; without these self-imposed restrictions, we may never truly be free.“21 While the risk remains of being overwhelmed and suffocated by the mountains of Sabbath prohibitions, nonetheless these restrictions create a reality in which one can release oneself from the tyranny of doing, of making, of creating, of acting in order to feel one's sense of self-worth and value. Shabbat celebrates one's being, our capacity to witness the wonder of the world and draw forth a deep sigh of satisfaction and gratefulness.To work, to re-fashion and re-shape our world is an expression of dissatisfaction, an impulse to improve upon the creation as we have it. Prohibited activity suggests any action that interferes with the prospect of acquiring a deeper sense of gratitude for our lives. Kabbalistic thinking understands the word for “remember”-‫-זכר‬from its translation as “zachar”masculine.To engage in remembrance and sanctification requires a creative act.The second equally important

‫ויברך‬ ‫אלהים‬

‫ברוך אתה יי‬ ‫אלהינו מלך‬ ...‫העולם‬

Praised are You,Lord our God...

And He Blessed

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
dimension of the Shabbat experience resides in the fulfillment of the obligation to -‫ -שמור‬observing, fulfilling, connoting the feminine aspect of being receptive and embracing. In the spiritual world we all encompass the dynamics of giving and receiving, of releasing and taking in the fullness of lifeʼs myriad blessings.Masculine and

‫עבדו את‬ ‫יי בשמחה‬

Serve the divine with grateful joy


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
feminine are integrated into a unity of utter harmony and completion. Shabbat calls upon us to do many things, all of which are designed toward achieving delight, pleasure and joyfulness, enhancing our awareness of gratitude and thankfulness. “On the Sabbath, human forms of creation are



The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
baking a pie or running a warehouse or writing a sonnet-to recall all the better what humans cannot produce. Making love is especially encouraged, along with good food and wine and company. Only what gets in the way of gratitude is proscribed.”22 c. Rejoicing:
“Shamor ” -

‫“ -שמור‬fulfill,” not only entails activity to be avoided, but calls our

physical and spiritual beings into response in the celebration of the day. As a complementary experience to “zachor,” “remembering,” the positive side of “observing” is a broad spectrum of sensual and physical experiences that help sensitize us to the awareness of the Sabbath as a day of giftedness and gratefulness. The commandment –“shamor”-‫-שמור‬observe, carry out, fulfill, embraces the imperative that we do those things and perform those rituals and activities that heighten our awareness of the multipli c ity of pleasures by which human life is blessed and made more meaningful and joyful. In much of Western religious thinking, the dichotomy of body and spirit seems to prevail as a fundamental way by which we differentiate between that which is significant and that which has little or no enduring value or meaning. It is assumed that the spirit is superior and the material is to be abandoned, rejected if not entirely repressed, in order to achieve greatest sanctity and saintliness. By contrast, the casting away of the carnal is not the Jewish way. Rather, Judaism insists that it is possible, if not necessary, to sanctify the physical and the bodily, and in this way approach the fullness of life with an understanding that all of life is Godʼs gift for which we are summoned to be grateful. Thus on Shabbat, we celebrate not only the spirit but also the body; not only the soul but also the senses.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
E. O.Wilson touches on a growing contemporary spiritual phenomenon of great concern and consternation. Advocates of the religious view toward life are abandoning their stewardship of the world in favor of a promise of a spiritualized life entirely detached and disconnected from the body and the physical form. “Even more perplexing is the widespread conviction among Christians that the Second Coming is imminent, and that therefore the conditions of the planet are of little consequence. Sixty percent of Americans, according to a 2004 poll believe that the prophecies in the Book of Revelation are accurate. Many of these, numbering in the millions, think that the End of Time will occur within the life span of those now living.”23 The Sabbath proclaims that the material, the physical, the sensual are not intrinsically evil. To the contrary; the material contains the miraculous as does the sensual encompass the sparks of the sacred. How can the senses and sacredness fuse together successfully? Shabbat holds out the extraordinary message that divinity can be discovered not only in the realm of the spiritual but in the arena of human sense experience as well. The Sabbath is thus hallowed through physical things- wine, fine clothes, gourmet foods, pleasant fragrances, midday naps, intimate contact with one's spouse! However, there exists a bridge between the sensual and the spiritual without which they can remain apart, even antithetical.



The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
In order for the sensual to seep its way into the spiritual and undergo a transformation of sacredness, the sensual requires an accompanying sense of gratitude and recognition of a divine source as the Giver of these gifts. Gratitude is the bridge between the sensual and the spiritual. On the Sabbath, all is elevated by dint of our ability to gratefully acknowledge the giftedness of everything. A delightful rabbinic comment points out that the word of “Shabbat” ‫“ :שבת‬Shin” -‫“ ,ש‬Beit ”-‫ ,ב‬and “Tav”-‫ ,ת‬is an acronymn for “sleep on the Sabbath is a pleasure”-“Shʼeinah Bʼshabbat Tʼaanug.” 24 ‫.שינה בשבת תענוג‬ Thus, a mundane activity such as sleep takes on the spiritual dimensions of great sanctity. The Sabbath transforms the pedestrian into the poetic as it reminds us that sleeping is an act of letting go, surrender, not having to exert control, having trust in the goodness of the world, “resting in the arms of the divine…(knowing) there are forces larger than us that take care of the universe…the deep wisdom embedded in creation will take care of things for awhile.”25 Not only are the mind and soul, the spiritual capacities of the human being, necessary for the celebration of the Sabbath, but in fact all the human senses –touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing- are enlisted as vital means by which the Sabbath is sanctified and our capacity to respond with gratefulness is enhanced and enriched. In the words of Wayne Fuller: “ Sabbath invites us to take off our shoes, and allow our bodies to touch the earth. Fleshy tenderness meets grass, dirt, sand and rock, cool and warm and sensual like a loverʼs touch, feet on ground like a kiss, an embrace. Walk slowly on a patch of ground, feel it on the feet, feel the angles, curves, irregularities, know the way you know the body of a lover, every fold and mound and line.”26

‫שינה‬ ‫בשבת‬ ‫תענוג‬

A Sabbath Snooze
is a



The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
“To hallow it”(Exodus 20:8)-with a blessing. On the basis of this verse,

‫יין‬ ‫ישמח‬ ‫לבב‬ ‫אנוש‬

wine makes the heart glad

the Sages said: At the incoming of the Sabbath we hallow it by reciting the “hallowing”(Kiddush) of the day over wine.” 27 Wine, the symbol of joy and physicality, the beverage of sweet intoxication, is called into service as the first item of the Sabbath day to be utilized in the act of sanctification.The well-known adage from the book of Psalms , Chpt.104:15-”Wine gladdens the heart,” makes it abundantly clear that together with all the products of the land-oil from olive trees and bread from the wheat of the field, wine is a natural part of the myriad gifts bestowed by God upon humanity. Thus, the organic flow of gratitude that arises from an open and grateful heart. Together with the drinking of the wine is the indispensability of the act of blessing. We make holy by tasting the wine and by acknowledging its source with words of gratefulness, of blessing. Thus the onset of the process of gratefulness crystallization and enhancement.

“Taste and see how good is the Lord.”
Psalm 34:9

‫טעמו‬ Taste

The Psalm that contains the reference to “tasting” as an approach to understanding the goodness of the world, hence the goodness of the worldʼs Creator, is recited each Shabbat. An all-encompassing dimension, without which the Sabbath experience is incomplete, even eviscerated, is that of the fullest experience of physical delight on that day. Without the inclusion of the body, how can one fully appreciate and be grateful for, the given goodness of the universe and life? In the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the beverages we drink, the utensils we use, the games we play, the fragrances we smell, the sounds we listen to, the full measure of Shabbatʼs holiness and the worldʼs blessing come to the fore. Even our ability to sleep and to engage in intimate, sexual activity is looked upon as not only permissible but desirable.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫שלום עליכם מלאכי השלום‬ ‫מלאכי עליון מי מלך מלכי המלכים‬ ‫הקדוש ברוך הוא‬ We wish you peace, angels of peace, Angels of the most sublime-the Holy One Blessed be He.

What do angels do? They are messengers of the divine who bring holiness into the world. They praise God. He will instruct His angels to guard you in all your paths May the Lord guard your going and your coming now and forever. We are grateful for the angelic part of the human soul which allows us to make life holy and praise God from grateful hearts.

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness ‫יברכך יי וישמרך‬ ‫יאר יי פניו אליך ויחנך‬ ‫ישא יי פניו אליך וישם לך שלום‬
Yevarechecha Adonai vʼyishʼmrecha Yaeir Adonai panav eilehcha viʼchoonehka Yisa Adonai panav eilehcha vʼyaseim lecha SHALOM May God bless you and protect you May God turn His light toward you so that you may be gracious and generous May God favor you , your loved ones, Israel and the human community, with PEACE. If any day elevates our gratitude for children-whether our own, those of our family or the children of the world-it is the Sabbath. Friday night is the holy time of blessing and parents transmit that blessing by placing hands on the tender heads of our children and recite ancient words pregnant with hopes and dreams.

May God bless
and protect you ‫יברכך‬ ‫יי‬ ‫וישמרך‬


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫ע‬ ‫נ‬

“Oneg”-the heart of the Sabbath
“Oneg ”-‫-ענג‬pleasure or delight, is a “leitwort, “ a thematic key word around which the prayers and practices of the Sabbath pivot. According to the Sephardic tradition, the following selection is included in each of the recitations of the Amidah prayer on the Sabbath day, with the exception of the afternoon of Shabbat whose spiritual quality is particularly unique. (In the Ashkenazi tradition, this excerpt is


A A H!

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫שבענו‬ ‫מטובך‬

Make us grateful for Your Goodness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫ו‬ ‫כ‬ ‫ב‬ ‫ד‬ ‫ת‬ ‫ו‬

hon or it


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
reserved only for the morning Amidah of the Additional service, the Musaf).
“They shall rejoice in Your Sovereignty-those who observe -(“shomrei”-‫-שומרי‬from the

word, “shamor”) the Sabbath and call it a delight-“Oneg”- ‫ ;ענג‬the people who sanctify the seventh day will be satisfied and delighted (“yitangu”-‫-יתענגו‬from the word-“oneg”-delight) because of Your goodness (bounty or gifts).” The prayer brings to our conscious awareness the spiritual imperative of experiencing physical pleasure and delight on the Sabbath as a means of fulfilling Godʼs wishes. Blessing is embedded in the day, readily available, inviting us to open our hearts and receive it. At the core of this expectation is the realization that the Sabbathʼs greatness and joy pulsate and come alive when the Sabbath observer is able to deeply recognize the source of lifeʼs delights with an inner perception of gratefulness. To deprive the individual of lifeʼs basic pleasures on the Sabbath would be entirely inimical to Sabbathʼs purpose. The centrality of “oneg”-‫ -ענג‬of delight on the Sabbath originates in an early Biblical passage- “Thou shall call the Sabbath a delight.”(Isaiah 58:13) The Rabbis expand on the notion of delight to encompass the totality and essentiality of the elemental components of raw physical existence. ”With what is one to show his delight on the Sabbath? R. Judah son of R. Samuel bar Shilat said in the name of Rav: With a dish of beets, large fish and heads of garlic. R. Hiyya bar Ahi said in the name of Rav: So long as it is prepared in the honor of the Sabbath, even a “hum b le dish” is a “delight.” What humble dish, for example? R. Papa said: Fish-hash pie.” 28 Thus, whether the dish eaten on the Sabbath is regarded as something of a delicacy or a food that is common and readily available, what transforms the prosaic, primitive item is the spiritual perception of the Sabbath as a day of gratefulness, which converts it into a moment of holiness. A more dramatic illustration of the unique power of the Sabbath experience is in the following: “A Caesar asked R. Joshua b. Hananiah: Why do Sabbath dishes have such a fragrant aroma? He answered: We have a certain seasoning called Sabbath which we put in the dish, and that gives it its fragrant aroma…For him who keeps the Sabbath it avails;

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
but for him who does not, it will not avail.”29 The key to the special ness of the Sabbath is not the material item itself, whether one dish or another. The secret ingredient is the Sabbath. How is oneʼs taste of the Sabbath enhanced and sensitized? I would suggest through the mindful awareness of the extraordinary wonder contained in virtually each and every dish. By tapping into a spiritual capacity for gratefulness, the spiritual dimension refined by way of this awareness enlarges and intensifies the sensual experience of smell, sound, sight, touch and taste. Another central phrase of the Sabbath liturgy that reinforces and amplifies the force of “oneg,” ‫ ,ענג‬of delight, is the reaching for satisfaction and contentment on the Sabbath day. A thread that runs through the entire worship service of the Sabbath is the hope for fulfillment: “sabeinu mituvecha,”-‫“-שבענו מטובך‬Satisfy us from Your goodness.” Based on the assumption that on the Sabbath we do not petition God for anything, how are we to understand this prayer that seems to imply that to request an abundance from God is perfectly natural and in keeping with the spirit of Shabbat? We are not petitioning God for abundance; we are asking for the capacity to feel satisfied with the abundance that is already available to us. Herein lies the nub of Sabbathʼs meaning. When we gratefully recall the creation of the world, which is one of the two basic rationales of the Sabbath, then we experience a sense of gratification and are rendered content, even happy. The challenge of the Sabbath is to present us with a structure, a set of practices and experiences, a series of ʻtechniquesʼ and ways of thinking, that enable us to make internal connections w ith the wellsprings of our innate sense of gratefulness. Gratification is within our grasp. “My Shabbes outfit is jeans.” Oneʼs total ambience, all that surrounds and embraces an individual, reflects the uniqueness of the seventh day. Even, or especially, oneʼs clothing. Clothes mark the special ness of an occasion and our attitudes to it. Getting dressed up is a common feature of preparing for a singular event in oneʼs life; The Sabbath is that weekly

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
occasion that mandates a mindful awareness of how we dress and how we feel as a result of our attire. “And thou shall honor it”(Isaiah 58:13)-so that your garment for the Sabbath is not like your garment for weekdays. Rabbi Huna said: If one has a change of garments, he should change them; but if he has nothing to change into, he should let them down.”30 (and not tuck them up as he does while working.) A number of years ago, as rabbi of a Manhattan synagogue, I noticed that a young woman would regularly attend Sabbath services always dressed in jeans. She was quite conspicuous compared to everyone else wearing his or her Sabbath best. While recognizing the growing informality that was emerging in the public behavior of the younger people of the community, I still remained very curious about this womanʼs insistence on coming to shul on Shabbes so casually dressed. Perhaps the reason was related to some kind of personal rebellion or expression of gender equality. One Shabbat, at the conclusion of the services, this woman approached me and said: “ Rabbi, you are probably wondering why I come to shul on Shabbes in jeans?” Not wanting to embarrass her, I hesitated. “As a matter of fact,” I replied, “I did wonder about it.” I quickly reassured her that her being present in the synagogue was more important than her dress. “Let me explain why,“ she continued. “All week long I dress up formally for work. I have to appear at my very best to impress clients and coworkers. One day a week, Shabbes, I donʼt have to impress anyone. Itʼs a day of complete relaxation and change from the tension and competition of the work week. I am most comfortable, and most myself, when I wear jeans. Jeans are my Shabbes outfit.” I thought of the Talmudic statement referred to above and appreciated her comment. If a change is made that highlights the holiness of the Sabbath as a day of gratefulness, then we have honored the day and have fulfilled its expectations.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness Sights, smells, songs and sex on the Sabbath:
Perhaps the most widely known and practiced ritual associated with the Sabbath is the lighting of the Sabbath candles on Friday evening. Who can forget the touching scene from “Fiddler on the Roof” during which Tevyaʼs family is gathered around the simple Sabbath table and his wife and daughters share in the ritual candle lighting. The theatre is darkened and all that the audience sees are flickers of flame which evoke powerful memories and emotions of deep attachment and longing. This act is accompanied by the fatherʼs blessing his children, another deeply endearing experience of the day. The symbolism of light, with all its many spiritual ramifications, is captured in the moments of the lightʼs glow. Light and fire, a fundamental source of energy, a gift of creation, conveys the magic and the blessing of this natural manifestation of the worldʼs wonder. So central is lightʼs significance that the Sabbath is both ushered in and escorted out at the end of the day, to the kindling of lights, an unmistakable reminder of the gift of all heavenly luminaries. We feast our eyes on the colors, warmth and enchantment of the flames, perceiving with our mindʼs eye the generosity of the Ultimate Source of all things. These little lights bring us great delight. “And call the Sabbath a delight”(Isaiah 58:13). The word “delight”-“oneg”-‫-ענג‬refers to the kindling of the lamp on the Sabbath. “My life was bereft of peace” ( Lamentations 3:17) refers, according to R. Abbahu, to the lack of the Sabbath lamp.” 31 The eyes become a conduit for Sabbathʼs message of gratefulness. We quietly witness, with the awareness of our hearts and the blessings on our tongues, the spiritual freedom embedded in the humble flames of this sacred day. “...Fire is the ultra-living element.It is intimate and it is universal.It lives in iur heart.It lives in the sky.It rises from the depths of the substace and offers itself with the warmth of love...”31


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Three generations back My family had only To light a candle And the world parted. Today, Friday afternoon. I disconnect clocks and phones. When night fills my house With passages, I begin saving My life. Marcia Falk 32


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
We not only stop to look on the Sabbath; we stop to smell as well. An ancient practice still followed by members of the Sephardic community is the taking of fragrant flowers or plants and inhaling their aroma with the arrival of each Shabbat. “One Sabbath eve, before sunset, R. Simeon ben Yochai and his son R. Eleazar saw an old man holding two bunches of myrtle and running in the twilight.What are these for? They asked him. To honor the Sabbath, he replied. But one should be enough? One is for the commandment of “remember” and one for the commandment to “observe.” R. Simeon said to his son. ”See how beloved are the commandments to Israel.”33 In both cases of sight and smell, the tradition mandates more than one. A minimum of two candles is required and from the above passage it is clear that the Shabbat is more fully observed when there is an abundance of aromas as well, satisfying our sense of smell and nurturing our physical senses with the consciousness of lifeʼs plentiful pleasures. We are forbidden to stint on the Sabbath. By bestowing upon ourselves the fullest measure we can afford of lifeʼs physical and sensual joys, the spiritual meaning of the Sabbath is more fully understood and embraced. Again, like the lights of Shabbat so too its fragrances. As we welcome the Sabbath with sweet scents so do we bid farewell to this moment of gratefulness with spices of rich pungency and renewal during the Havdallah-‫ -הבדלה‬service, the service of separating the Sabbath from the weekday period. The gift of hearing is also celebrated on the Sabbath. One of the exceptional features of the Sabbath celebration is the chanting of Sabbath songs during Sabbath meals.Normally, families eat and

‫עזי‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ז‬ ‫מ‬ ‫ר‬ ‫ת‬ ‫יה‬ Yah
My Strength My


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
run. In the best of circumstances, they linger at the table for protracted conversation. Only on the Sabbath, however, is the meal experience complemented and enhanced by the melodious strains of songs praising the Sabbath and the Sabbathʼs Source. The tunes, lyrics and sounds all converge to heighten our awareness of how great a gift is all that we enjoy-our food, family, friends and the fact of our existence. The Talmud prescribes the Sabbath as a time for making love. ”How often are scholars to perform their marital duties? Rab Judah in the name of Samuel replied: Every Friday night.”32 Moreover, Jewish law defines lovemaking as one of the delights –“taanugei Shabbat”--‫תענוגי שבת‬of the Sabbath.34 It was Judaismʼs recognition of the sanctity of sensuality, especially on the Sabbath, that made intimate contact between husband and wife a strongly desirable Sabbath activity. The pleasure of the human body, the physical experience of touch and contact, are regarded as a profound means by which to acknowledge the joy and giftedness of life and the companionship of oneʼs spouse. If the Sabbath is designed in such a way as to elevate our sense of gratefulness for all things of life, it is natural that the Sabbath would emerge as the most conducive and desirable time during which to engage in intimate activity as well. Further more, the leisure associated with the Sabbath allows for the fullest expression of love and gratefulness to oneʼs partner for the gift of human sexuality. There is no reason or valid justification to hurry with the satisfaction of oneʼs physical needs. The commentaries on the Code of Jewish Law recommend strongly that all effort be made by the husband to express himself romantically and lovingly so that the sexual act be incorporated as part of a larger relationship of love.35 Shabbatʼs freedom from daily demands and burdens permits the couple to more fully open their hearts to one another and engage in a more meaningful exchange of caring and love. Shabbat is the time to be grateful for human love.

make the day





The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness The Gift of Torah
The Torah of the Lord is perfect, renewing the spirit… The precepts of the Lord are just, gladdening the heart… More precious are they than gold, than purest gold, Sweeter than honey, droppings of the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19) Recited as part of the Sabbath morning liturgy, this Psalm highlights the study of Torah is an integral part of the Sabbath experience. Minimally, the Sabbath service mandates the public reading of the Torah, a portion each week until the entire Torah is completed either in one or three years. Together with recognizing divinity in the text of natureʼs glory, Shabbat affords us the understanding of the intimacy and love associated with the discovery of the divine in the text of Torah as well. The vivifying capacity of the Sabbath, ordained in the Torah by the word-“Vayeenafash-”-‫ -וינפש‬He was refreshed, “nefesh”-‫נפש‬being the word for life-force or soul, is

‫מתוקים‬ ‫מדבש‬

sweeter than honey


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

          ‫תורתך‬ ‫ש‬ ‫ע‬ ‫ש‬ ‫ע‬ ‫ת‬ ‫י‬ Your Torah is my Play thing

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫ישמעו‬ ‫ענוים‬ ‫וישמחו‬

Let the
humble be glad


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
realized and reinforced by one's engagement in Torah study on this day. The Sabbath is a particularly opportune time during which Torah is engaged in not only intellectually or halachically, with all its many manifestations of controversy and differing opinions, but rather, in the words of the Psalmist, as an experience of sweetness that “gladdens the heart” and “renews the spirit.” For the study of Torah to be “Shabbesdik”- true to the spirit of the Sabbath- it must make available to all a sense of grateful joy, connecting us to its treasures of genuine guidance and love. “ Berekhia taught in the name of R. Hiyya bar Abba: The Sabbath was given solely for enjoyment. R. Haggai said in the name of R. Samuel Bar Nachman: The Sabbath was given solely for the study of Torah. But the two do not really differ. What R.Berakhia said …applies to disciples of the wise who weary themselves all week long in the study of the Torah but on Shabbat come out and enjoy themselves. What R. Haggai said…applies to workingmen who are monopolized by their work all week long but on the Sabbath come in and busy themselves with the Torah.” 36 I understand this rabbinic comment to apply to all, not only the scholar or the workingman, in a somewhat different way. The way by which the Torah is experienced, especially on the Sabbath, is when its potential for joy is shared by all, a joy that is joined to the sense of gratefulness for the gift of the Torah itself.

Shabbes in Becket
I, the text, She, the commentator, I, God-the final word, She, Rashi running with the word Cradled in her heart Side by side on rocking chairs Sun’s rays washing our faces With warm rivulets of honeyed Light, Eyes closed, Knitted blankets blocking winter’s chill, We cuddle up to the caress of Torah “What is the reading today, she asks?” and we embark on a Shabbes journey into our souls, taking with us a satchel of sacred words, of ancient stories with echoes of eternity.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
I recite and Rosie Rivets words into moments of midrashic enchantment, wonder of clarity and vision I, Moses, raise my hand and perform magic, rods into snakes and back again to lifeless sticks, water into blood, day into night, and death in the service of freedom. But Miriam Raises the hem of long flowing skirts Lifting her legs in dance, Raising her voice in song, Miriam the miracle –maker, With body and breast Bursting with life In service of life. Her descendent, my wife, Sings the song of heart’s softness And dances the dance of Sabbath delight. “I will praise the Lord at all times…let the humble be glad…

Taste and see how good is the Lord.”(Psalm 34 :2,9) Witnessing the wonder of the world and tasting the sweetness of Torah, how can anyone not praise the Giver of these gifts? Furthermore, knowing the “all time-ness” of the human capacity for gratefulness, for praise, is a source of great assurance and inner stability. It is common for most to thank, to praise at moments of favor and fortune. “Tamid”-‫-תמיד‬always, perpetually, uninterruptedly, represents the temporal reality of Sabbathʼs extraordinary bestowal of blessing by which to transcend circumstance and t

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
h e transient and touch the tassels of Godʼs Presence every seventh day of every week. Enlightened by the awareness of Creation, Torah and eternity, the darkness of passing moments is illumined as if by the piercing rays of a floodlight, the sacred gift of the Sabbath. Shabbat is meant for all. It is the most completely democratic gift. “Let the humble be glad…” As long as the external and material dimensions of success blind the eye and block the heart of the ungrateful, Shabbat remains onerous, even wasteful. If gratefulness is granted, however, its power can redeem us from our fear and failure. It is only the grateful heart than can sanctify the day, no matter our riches and renown.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

Commenting on a passage in Deuteroomy, Chapter 8:10-”You shall eat, be satisfied and bless the Lord for the good land He has given you, “ Shlomo of Karlin stated:

When one eats in a spirit of gratitude,whether there is much food or little, the meal is satisfying.”


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness “With all your offerings you must offer salt”( Leviticus 2:13)
It is the custom on the Sabbath to add salt to the challah when having each of the three Sabbath repasts. Salt, the symbol of preservation, suggests the eternity of the covenant and the special relationship between God and those who celebrate the Sabbath as a day of holiness and gratefulness to the Source off all things. Curiously, the Hebrew word for salt is ‫”,מלח‬melach” and by re-arranging the three letters you arrive at the Hebrew word for bread,‫”,לחם‬lechem,” or to do battle.(Other re-arrangements of the letters constitute other words of significant meaning-‫-חמל‬to have compassion;‫-מחל‬to forgive,the act of dancing;‫-חלם‬to dream)

A wonderfu Hindu storty about salt. An apprentice of an aging Hindu master could not stop complaining.One morning the master sent his disciple for some salt.When he returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it. “How does it taste?” the master asked. “Bitter,” spit the apprentice. The master then asked the student to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the young man swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old master said.: Now drink from the lake.” As the water dripped down the discipleʼs chin, the master asked: “How does it taste?” “Fresh,” remarked the apprentice. “Do you taste the salt?” asked the master. “No,” said the young man. The master taught: “The pain of life is pure salt.The amount of pain in life remains the same.But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.When you are in pain, the only thing to do is to enlarge your sense of things...Stop being a glass. Become a lake” Perhaps the custom of adding salt to challah reminds us of Sabbathʼs song of gratefulness, a song that resides in our soulful capacity to praise and to thank, no matter what our pain.Gratefulness can be as large and refreshing as a lake.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫תודה-תהילה‬ Part 3: Thank-Praise :Todah v’Tehilah
The Sabbath teaches all beings whom to praise. Abraham Joshua Heschel “Angels have six wings, one for each day of the week, with which they chant their song; on the seventh day, the angels plead with God: ʻ Master of the Universe! Please give us another wing with which to praise You on the Sabbath?ʼ God replied: ʻI have one wingthis world -that sings for Me today.ʼ It is written: ʻFrom the wing of the earth we have heard songs, Glory for the righteous!ʼ (Isaiah 24:16) Indeed, on Shabbat God wants to hear only the songs of His children.”37 We examine the liturgy on Shabbat to gain an understanding of how prayer on Shabbat is an integral component of the gratefulness experience on this day. Prayer on Shabbat is never petition; it is exclusively praise-‫ ,תהילה‬an expression of “thank you ” -‫ ,תודה‬of gratitude.

The Sabbath Liturgy: Kabbalat Shabbat FridayEvening ‫קבלת שבת‬
With the setting sun on Friday afternoon, we step into a sacred and joyful space by reciting the “Kabbalat Shabbat ” -‫ -קבלת שבת‬service, “welcoming the Shabbat.” The Hebrew word -‫“ -קבלה‬kabbalah,” means more than welcome. The word suggests receiving, embracing,


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
the Sabbath in all its many manifestations of blessing and goodness. This service encompasses six Psalms of praise corresponding to the six days of creation and culminates in “Lecha Dodi”-‫ -לכה דודי‬a song of welcome to the beauty of the day, metaphorically experienced by the images of the Sabbath as queen or bride. The


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
words of this song urge the banishment of all sorrow, humiliation and grief.
“Feel not ashamed or humiliated,

Why are you bowed down, why do you moan? Wake up! Wake up! For your light has come, Arise and shine; Awaken! Awaken! Utter a song.” Instead of sadness and shame, there is joy and light; in place of “not enough” there is “more than enough.” So complete is the Sabbath that there is literally no room for sorrow in our hearts. Jewish law itself dictates that when a loved one dies, no public mourning rites are observed on the Sabbath day. 38 All is gratefulness, with consternation and worry edged out of our consciousness. Evening time is a time of uncertainty, fear. Darkness brings dread and our evening weekday prayers petition God for protection and safety. But insecurity is alien on Shabbat, a day of utter confidence and trust. During the prayer for eveningʼs peace-“hashkivainu ”- ‫-השכיבנו‬we do not recite the weekday-closing blessing of: “Blessed are You…forever the Protector of Israel.” Rather, the closing blessing elicits the hope for and awareness of, peace -‫“ -שלום‬shalom”: “…Who spreads His Sukkah of peace over us.” Curiously, the image of the “sukkah,” a simple hut, evokes an association to all that is frail and vulnerable, without the alleged security that comes from our reliance on dwellings made of steel, brick and stone. The “sukkah” suggests exposure, to the sky and the elements around us, to the natural world. If anything, the sukkah allows us to intimately sense G o dʼs handiwork, the creation celebrated on the Sabbath, a gift of the loftiest importance. A highlight of the evening service is a citation from the Torah that conveys the Sabbathʼs spiritual significance, its reflection of the uniqueness of our relationship to God.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
“…It is a sign-‫ -אות‬between Me and the people Israel for all time…”38 What is the Sabbath? A sign, a symbol, a signature, a totality. If one analyzes the numerical construction of the Hebrew word for sign-“Ot ”-‫ -אות‬it is comprised of 3 letters: “Aleph” -‫ -א‬the first letter of the alphabet ; “Vav”-‫ -ו‬with a numerical value of 6, and “Tav”-‫-ת‬the last letter of the alphabet. One can say, therefore, that the middle letter of the Hebrew word for “sign”, “vav”=6, representing the six days of creation, is encompassed by the first and final letters of the word for “sign” and of the alphabet, suggesting beginning and ending , alpha and omega, the “all-ness” of everything captured in the sacred “sign” of Shabbat. Furthermore, the sign of the Sabbathʼs link between Israel and God is –“leʼolam”‫- לעולם‬forever, for all eternity. Not only does the word “olam”- ‫-עולם‬point to “allness” in time but it also suggests totality in space, the word –“olam ”being synonymous with “world.” All needs are satisfied, all desire is met, and all aspiration is attained. God Himself, ”Shavat Vayeenafash,” -‫-שבת וינפש‬rested and was refreshed and renewed. The Sabbath replenishes, fills all the empty spots in our bodies and souls, with nothing lacking, with everything within the reach of our consciousness, our ability to be grateful. “The seventh day has the flavor of seventh heaven and was given as a foretaste of the world to come; ʻot hi leʼolam,ʼ -‫-אות היא לעולם‬a token of eternity.” 39


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Most of our many daily blessings bring needs and desires before God.The Amidah prayer of the weekday pivots around petition. On the Sabbath, by contrast, not a word of “I want” or “I need” is contained in our prayers. Only praise and thanksgiving arise from our hearts glorifying the Sabbath day.

“You sanctified the Sabbath day for the sake of Your Name.”

For the sake of Godʼs reputation as the ultimate and most generous of Givers do we sanctify the Sabbath. This day has no other purpose but to present our pleasure and appreciation. Upon closer examination, however, we do need to petition, to pray for something on the Sabbath. Itʼs not health or wealth, not happiness, power or fame. We pray for that which is so very difficult to attain, a spiritual posture that is sometimes so daunting it often remains beyond our reach. After all, to gripe, to demand, to feel entitled, to envy and compete all come pretty naturally. But gratitude is different. Thus even on the Sabbath we have to ask for divine guidance in our attempt to acquire a heart of gratefulness. As a result we have the core prayer of the Sabbath:
“Accept our rest, sanctify us with Your mitzvoth, allow us a portion

of Your Torah; permit us to experience the fullness of your freely given goodness and love; grant us the joy of knowing Your kindness and compassion.”


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

Shacharit of Shabbat-Sabbath Morning
On the Sabbath, the flow of praise unfolds more elaborately than on weekdays.
“By the mouth of the upright, You are extolled;

By the words of the righteous, You are praised; By the tongue of the faithful, You are acclaimed; By the heart of the saintly, are You hallowed.” This brief paragraph of praise, prior to the formal beginning of prayer ushered in by the “Barchu” -‫-ברכו‬can be understood in a straightforward way, namely, those who praise God are naturally and expectedly to be considered as upright, righteous, faithful and saintly. Those who do not meet these


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
spiritual standards are less likely to express words of devotion and honor. I would suggest reversing the sequence between the first and second phrases of each verse. Rather than starting with the description of oneʼs religious character as the motivating factor leading to the response of praise, I submit that the common thread uniting all four categories of spiritual attainment-uprightness, righteousness, faithfulness, saintliness-is the disposition to relate to God from the vantage point of praise. Those graced with a grateful heart are the ones who naturally praise. Without the inner inclination of gratefulness as the foundation for oneʼs life, it is unlikely, if not impossible, to reach the degree of piety reflected in the above mentioned classifications. Therefore, on the Sabbath we recite these words reminding ourselves of the spiritual standard of holiness inextricably tied into the mind-set of gratefulness.
“For it is the duty of all creatures…to extol, laud and glorify You.”


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Faced with the unhappy prospect of being excluded from the community of the saintly and the righteous, the average individual is informed in no uncertain terms that “all creatures” have a duty to praise, every one can discover the natural capacity to be grateful and to celebrate the Sabbath as a unique spiritual day of the week. It is a day on which we abandon our plebeian pursuits and reclaim our authentic state of being in which we may partake of a blessedness for what we are, regardless of whether we are learned or not, of whether our career is a success or a failure: it is a day of independence from social conditions. I would add that the Sabbath is a day of independence of all conditions except one-the condition of being grateful. One could argue that in reviewing the entire continuum of Sabbath prayer the essential thrust of all the many words, and there are indeed many, is to utter grateful praise as an instrument of relationship to a Higher Source of Giving and Compassion. Immediately following the call to prayer, the “Barchu,”-‫ -ברכו‬we come into contact with the


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
“allness,” the comprehensive and over arching reality of the universe. “ All creatures praise You, all declare…” Gratefulness generates an explosion of exaltation throughout all living things. Shabbat is the ideal time for the performance of this worldwide chorus to reach its sublime crescendos. The Sabbath prayers reiterate the wonder, beauty and grandeur of the world as it is. “…His greatness and goodness fill the universe; knowledge and wisdom encircle His Presence…He is acclaimed by beauty and glory…all bodies of the heavens, the stars and planets, acclaim Him with praise.” The central Morning Prayer, the Amidah, usually replete with petitions, contains one central theme, the giftedness of the Sabbath. “Moses rejoiced at the gift of his portion.. adorning him with splendor atop Mt. Sinai, two tablets of stone did he bring down inscribed with Sabbath observance…” What is clearly and unmistakably echoed in this prayer is the Talmudic exegesis on the Sabbath that informs us of the following: i


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
“The Holy One Blessed be He, said to Moses, I have a precious gift in My treasure house called the Sabbath and desire to give it to Israel; go and inform them …for it is written: “that you may know that I the Lord sanctify you.”(Exodus 31:13) 40 Intrinsic to the gift of the Sabbath day is the notion of the Giver. As in all things given that we cherish, the recipient, by nature of her role as receiver, is morally expected to acknowledge and be grateful to the source of the gift. The Amidah reiterates the nature of this day by reminding us that “…You gave (this day) lovingly to the people Israel, Your beloved descendents of Jacob.” Why? What is the purpose of this gift? The prayer answers the question this way: (So that) “The people sanctify the seventh day.” How? The Amidah continues directly with its reply. “ (The people) will all be satisfied, satiated and delighted, filled with pleasure from –“tuvecha”-‫ -טוביך‬Your goodness.” The people of Israel sanctify the day by achieving a sense of fulfillment and sufficiency from that which already exists in the very nature of Godʼs created world. To take the utmost delight and joy from every iota of creation, of nature, is to attest to the generosity of the Creator and thereby


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
experience a sense of gratefulness that

permeates the experience of the day. A little before the Barchu, the Sabbathʼs morning service is particularly enriched by the dramatic declaration of the aliveness of all things in Nature. The animus and energy of being alive is the source of Godʼs untold praises. “Nishmat kol Hai ”-‫-נשמת כל חי‬the breath, the soul, the life force of all living things in the world-“tevoreich et sheemcha adonai elohaynu”- ‫ -תברך את שמך יי אלהינו‬Praises Your name, Lord our God. This prayer conveys the spiritual reality that every species that lives represents membership in the universal chorus of song and praise, from the lyrical language of humans to the muted movement of millions of minuscule creatures and forms of


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
primitive life. Nature in its fullest diversity and numbers pulsates with praise.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
We acclaim Godʼs –“shem”-‫ -שם‬name or signature, imprinted on every atom of life, and all things delight in this document of divinity. These words are reserved for the Sabbath. The prayer continues with the stark awareness of how woefully inadequate our words are when attempting to do full justice to the marvel and wonder of life. “Could song fill our mouth as water fills the sea, And could joy flood our tongue like the countless waves, Could our lips utter praise as limitless as the sky, And could our eyes match the splendor of the sun? Could we soar with arms like eagleʼs wings And run with gentle grace As the swiftest deer, Never could we fully state our gratitude For one-ten-thousandth of the lasting love Which is Your precious blessing dearest God Granted to our ancestors and to us.”41 Together with a sense of overpowering gratefulness the liturgist recognizes the inability to accurately express gratefulness which only reinforces his profound experience of humble thankfulness. By what merit do we deserve life and its countless blessings? What entitles us to so much, to the gift of being alive in all its myriad forms? This question is raised not only by the author of our prayer but by contemporary voices as well. I can think of no finer or precise poetic expression of this spiritual understanding than the words of Mary Oliver: Everywhere I go I am Treated like royalty, which I am not. I thirst and am given water. My eyes thirst, and I am given the white lilies on the black water. My heart sings but the apparatus of singing doesn’t convey half what it feels and means. In spring there’ s hope, in fall the exquisite necessary diminishing, in winter I am as sleepy as any beast in his leafy cave, but in summer there is everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts, the hospitality of the Lord and my inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body through this water-lily world. 42 Why these gifts? What is their source? How do we explain to ourselves the miracle, the wonder, and the mystery of human existence? “You guide the world with kindness, its creatures with compassion.”

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
The ultimate gift of life is the love that finds its finest expression and translation in responses of compassion and kindness to “all things that live.” The Sabbath is a gift therefore by which we can recognize and be grateful for everything which is the allembracing gift of the human experience. In the minds of many, the Sabbath is a “lazy day,” one of sleepy leisure. Certainly compared to the frenetic pace of the work week, its mood and movement are designed to slow us down, to instill in us the dreamy quality of being at rest. Interestingly, however, the “Nishmat-‫ ”-נשמת‬prayer suggests an experience of alertness and aliveness that is dramatically different from other days of the week, in spite of their accelerated tempo. Godʼs gifts to humanity are made manifest in that “He stirs the sleeping, supports the falling, frees the fettered, raises those bowed down, and gives voice to the speechless.” The Sabbath paradoxically is a day of peak aliveness, an experience embraced by spiritual free d om, self-esteem and confidence, and the ability to articulate our innermost aspirations. Not only is the worldʼs macrocosm a source of amazement in its “allness” and multiformity, but also each individual microcosmically encompasses an entire universe of ability and function by which to make known the miracle of living. “These limbs which You formed for us, This soul-force, which You breathed into us, This tongue which You set in our mouth… Must laud, praise, extol and sing Your holiness and sovereignty… Every knee shall bend to You, Every back shall bow to You, Every heart shall revere You, Every fiber of our being shall sing to Your glory.” The totality of our being can sing praise as our every fiber is filled with gratefulness for lifeʼs goodness. As this prayer represents a reflection of the innate spiritual capacity of every human being to humbly thank the source of all for the gift of all, so too does it instruct us to awaken our awareness and evoke the inner need to praise and thank and to gratefully accept the full panorama of life.


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness ‫מזמור שיר ליום השבת‬ Mizmor Shir Le-Yom Ha-Shabbat A Song for the Sabbath Day
Each day of the week has a chosen psalm, one associated with the nature and purpose of that day, a psalm that was recited in the ancient world as an addendum to animal offerings. The Sabbath too has its particular psalm. At first glance there seems to be no direct kinship to the qualities of the Sabbath that would justify its selection for this special day. In fact, the words of this psalm could easily and appropriately be recited any time during the week.43 Why are they relegated to Shabbat with an introduction that reads: “A song for Shabbat.” A closer examination reveals the reason. The superscription of the psalm-‫”,מזמור שיר‬mizmor shir” is generally translated as a psalmsong.Each of the two words refers to song in some way.It is as if the author were saying-”Song song to the Sabbath!” In other words, the Sabbath itself is a source of song and prai s e,a reality in time that reflects and resonates with unmitigated gratefulness and thanks. “It is good to acclaim the Lord, to sing Your praise, exalted God.” Is this not the emotional underpinning of the Sabbath? When Genesis tells us that God rested, we are first informed that all that He had made was “very good”-“tov meod.”-‫(-טוב מאד‬Genesis1: 31). The opening word of the Sabbath psalm is: “Tov ”-‫-טוב‬it is good, to acclaim etc. Is not the Sabbath an opportune time to acknowledge the goodness of the world, creation and nature by e x periencing how good it is and expressing praise and gratefulness for all this goodness? Furthermore, the psalm resonates with the commandment -“Remember the Sabbath day…for in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth …” as it continues with: “Your works O Lord make me glad, I sing with joy of Your creation.”


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Why the need for Shabbat? How else can we pause to witness the grandeur, splendor and majesty of the world we inhabit? As genuine and trustworthy witnesses, we attest to this wonder through words of praise and inner consciousness of contentment and gratefulness. “Samachti”- ‫-שמחתי‬I rejoiced. The joy-“simcha”-‫ -שמחה‬is derived from not only the awareness of natureʼs extraordinary glory but in perceiving such magnificence as a gift beyond measure. Joy is embedded in gratefulness. The Sabbath is a time of joy because it is a time of grateful awareness. “I will sing as a result of Your handiwork;” again, the melody of the Sabbath day is one of marvel and the gr a tefulness that emerges from this remarkable insight of lifeʼs miraculous manifestations. The Psalm concludes with the assertion that God “is just, without flaw.” The Sabbath holds out the privilege and opportunity to see life gratefully, without the need to focus on its flaws, without the inclination to search for that which is missing, unsatisfactory, and a source of complaint and grumbling. On the Sabbath we do not entertain feelings of Godʼs unfairness; a Sabbath perspective is one of wholeness, one which reflects a sense of completion and fullness, a moment in which to catch a glimpse of a reality often overlooked, of a unified and harmonious universe which can be grasped only with the open heart and soul blessed with the power of gratefulness. “It was on the seventh day that the world was given a soul.” He rested -“vayinnafash”-‫(-וינפש‬Exodus 31:17);“nefesh” - ‫ -נפש‬means soul.”44


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
As the day wanes, a sadness begins to settle over our minds knowing that this special gift of time is coming to an end. Thus the Amidah for the Afternoon prayers fortifies our awareness of the giftedness of the day, reminding us that it is an unconditional gift that recurs weekly without interruption. The historic eternity of the Sabbath is featured as well informing the worshipper that even before the giving of the Ten Commandments the Sabbath was the precious possession of our earliest Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Abraham would rejoice, Isaac would exult, Jacob and his children would rest viz. find serenity (on the Sabbath).” Implied in its ancient history is the promise of continuity so that the growing gloom of the fading day is tempered by the optimism inherent in these prayers. What is the nature of Sabbath tranquility? “ A peacefulness of love and generosity, one of faithfulness and trust, a serenity of peace, quiet, security and assurance, a peacefulness of wholeness that You desire…Your children will recognize and know that You are the Source of their tranquility and by way of that serenity they will sanctify Your name.” The Amidah of Shabbat afternoon culminates in an expression of the fullest experience of contentment, “where the sorrows of the world are safely poured and gently dissolve into the unfathomable immensity of rest, and silence.” 45 The ability to embrace life in its fullness and garner an inner sense of peace and unity is the desire of God and the purpose of the gift of Shabbat.46 In examining the usage of the term “menuchah”, ‫ -מנוחה‬rest, tranquility, calm, in this segment of prayer, one discovers that the term is repeated in various descriptive contexts that flesh out its meaning, seven times. Obviously, the author was quite


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
deliberate in the association between the number seven and the Sabbath day. Moreover, the word “Menucha” -‫-מנוחה‬is almost identical to the word “minchah,” -

‫-מנחה‬offering or gift. To rest spiritually is a gift not only to God but also to us. When
the heart is filled with the serenity that seeps through our beings when we are fully grateful for our lives, we discover the d ivinity of Sabbath time and realize that our tranquility is tied to the Source of all things.

Shabbat-A Day of Freedom

The other rationale provided by the Torah for the celebration of the Shabbat is related to the experience of the Exodus from Egypt. The fourth commandment indicates this rationale explicitly: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God freed you from there…”(Deut. 5:15). It is evident that the opportunity to rest is a Godgiven one that must be made available to all, “your male and female slave may rest as you do.”(Deut.5: 14). In contrast to Egypt mitzrayim- ‫ -מצרים‬the place of slavery, of constriction and narrowness-from the Hebrew “meitzarim “-‫ ,מיצרים‬the Torah insists on the Sabbath as a day of physical rest and liberation, a day when we are granted the opportunity of exercising our minds and hearts with great expansiveness and imagination. Beyond the gift of physical rest, the Sabba t h has the powerful potential for enhancing the process of spiritual redemption as well. Slavery has many forms. We can be physically free, yet psychologically and spiritually find ourselves in fetters of the soul. I believe that the phenomenon of spiritual enslavement is not uncommon in contemporary society. Heschel captured the mood of today when he described our age as one gripped by “ the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness.” The spiritual slave is one controlled by cravings, addicted to the need to have more. The illusion that more will make one happy is the intoxicating instruction of our consumer driven culture. “…In a million forms, calling us from billboards, magazines, television, radio, newspapers, movies, web sites, and telemarketers, every single message without exception is this: You are not enough. You do not have enough.”47

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
On the Sabbath we focus our heart not on what we want but rather on what we have. Instructed to “remember,” we allow ourselves to be attentive and awake so that each single breath and movement of our body can fill us with an overflowing sense of gratefulness. A gentle touch of a loved one, the beauty of a single flower, the delicate taste of a sip of wine, the innocence of a childʼs smile, can all give us a profound sense of enough, “dayenu,”-‫ -דיינו‬it is sufficient, we need no more. The Sabbath is like a magnifying glass that enlarges the perception of lifeʼs meaning and lends greater clarity to our capacity for gratefulness for what we have and who we are. To be able to luxuriate in what we have is to transform the day into one of great contentment, a feeling that is internal in nature, influenced by a subjective sense of gratitude. The Sabbath frees us from our spiritual “stiff-neckedness.” It is curious to note that the Hebrew name for Pharaoh, “Paroh” -‫-פרעה‬when its letters are rearranged, spells out the word for neck, “oref”- ‫ . ערף‬Pharaoh's very name represents the embodied symbol of slavery, encompassing hard, callous obstinacy in the face of God's challenge to allow Israel to go free. Slavery in Egypt became intensely personal as the Israelites realized that their bondage affected not only their bodies but their souls, souls that hardened from suffering, and made it virtually impossible for their spirit to embrace life with o p en arms and hands, with a surrender to Sabbathʼs summons to trust the world and life. Our enslavement to control and dominate originates in our sense of stubbornness, a stubborness often born of fear and myopic vision, without the awareness of seeing the world in the full wonder of its potential for supporting and caring for us. The Sabbath is designed as a means by which to re-organize our minds and hearts so that the world is seen differently, as a good place, a place of trust and peace, a place that provides for our needs, a place for which we are profoundly grateful. “R.Hiyya bar Abbah said: ”Better is a handful of quietness-the Sabbath- than both hands full of labor and striving after wind.” –the six days of the week. (Eccles.4: 6) For Rabbi Hiyya used to say: Only through the merit of the Sabbath will Israel be

The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
redeemed, as it is said,” In sitting still and rest you shall be saved.”(Isaiah 30:15) That is, your salvation shall come about through the Sabbath and its rest.”48 Most fascinating is how this idea of Sabbath as a source of salvation was expressed in a totally different tradition, that of the Sufis, especially from the soul of its greatest poet, Rumi. It is on the Sabbath in particular when we are blessed with the gift of understanding, of experiencing the following: “Whole world (that) lives within a safeguarding, fish Inside waves, birds held in the sky, the elephant, The wolf, the lion as he hunts, the dragon, the ant, The waiting snake, even the ground, the air, The water, every spark floating up from the fire, All subsist, exist, and are held in the divine. Nothing Is ever alone for a single moment. All giving comes from There, No matter who You think you put your hand out Toward, it’s that which gives. “-Rumi 49 The Sabbath utters its gratefulness for all things.

Sabbath as a Gratefulness Meditation:
“The Sabbath is not only a legal institution, a state of mind or a form of conduct, but a process in the world of spirit.” 50 From sunset to sunset, all the experiences of Shabbat converge in such a way that the mind and soul can alight upon an area of gratefulness and wholeness . As in formal meditation, when we make an internal effort to calm the mind of its inner turbulence and wanderings, its worries of the future and its regrets over the past, and focus upon something that frees our minds, opens our hearts and liberates our souls, so too does the Sabbath, in its totality of time, render the day as a journey of inner mindfulness to the moment and its marvel, to what is as an inspiration, to what we have as holy. Shabbes shrinks the pedestrian and the mundane, while it stretches and sharpens the poetic and sacred in human existence. For Shabbat to become a weekly event of majesty, its soul must be addressed and experienced, not only its outward behaviors and physical manifestations. It was a beautiful Shabbat morning and my wife and I began our Shabbes stroll. It was summertime, we were in the country, and before we made our way on to the country road in front of our house, we casually examined the labor of our amateur efforts at horticulture. Weeds were popping up everywhere. I mentioned to my wife that the


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
following day, immediately after the Sabbath, we had to get a weed whacker and rid ourselves of this unpleasant growth. I then paused


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
and realized that in a real sense I had violated the spirit of Shabbat. To be sure I hadnʼt performed any unwarranted activity; yet, my thoughts took me to the next day, a weekday, and I abandoned the mindful attentiveness to the moment, anticipating a work activity and finding myself unhappy with the current state of affairs of our garden. I could not help but think of an ancient rabbinic episode that reinforces this challenge to sensitize oneʼs thoughts on the Sabbath to the fullness of lifeʼs gifts at the moment, in the here and now. “A pious man took a stroll in his vineyard on the Sabbath. He saw a breach in the fence and immediately determined to mend it as soon as the Sabbath was over. At the expiration of the Sabbath he decided: Since the thought of repairing the fence occurred on the Sabbath I shall never repair it.”51 Clearly, to avoid physical labor on the Sabbath is easier than cultivating a sense of gratefulness to the extent that we not even think of or consider that which remains to be done in our lives. Like a child completely engrossed in his gift, without thought of anything else, so too is the Sabbath a sacred moment during which we strive to immerse ourselves in the fullness of the moment, acknowledging the joy of receiving what we need and what we have, putting aside any thoughts and feelings of what we donʼt have and what we are unhappy about. “And it was good. “ For the Sabbath to be a sacred day, it must be a day of gratefulness, a day of seeing that “it was (and continues to be) good.” Remember the Weekday to Keep it Holy: The Sabbath “... is not an interlude but the climax of living.” 52 Heschelʼs holy words raise the question regarding the spiritual challenge of “Sabbathizing” the ordinary workday. In the Jewish calculation of time, the week in Hebrew is referred to with the same word for the Sabbath, “Shabbat.” Sunday is the first day of Shabbat, Monday, the second day of Shabbat etc. If the Sabbath is so pivotal spiritually in the experience of the unfolding of time, how do we bring the Sabbath into the rest of the week?


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness
Not surprisingly, a wonderful source of direction and instruction in this regard is the culture of Buddhism. In the Buddhist community of Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, periodically rings a Mindfulness Bell. Upon hearing the bell, everyone stops, and takes three silent, mindful breaths. Then they are free to continue their work. When one stops and becomes gratefully mindful, he/she enjoys a Sabbath pause. This can be done anytime and anywhere. A moment of prayer, smelling a rose, tasting a new dish, making love to oneʼs spouse, catching sight of an item of beauty, are all moments of Sabbath pauses.

How to begin?
The Sabbath has been observed and celebrated for millennia. Customs, rituals and practices abound. Yet, each generation adds its insights, experiences and unique creativity to the enrichment of this day. Allow me to suggest just one way by which to infuse your Shabbat with the attitude of gratitude. At the Shabbat table, or anywhere else on the Sabbath day, review in your mind the previous week, one experience, one event, one happening, one attainment, one idea or insight, one person, for which or for whom you are particularly grateful at this Shabbat moment. Share this with others or have them share it with you. In this way, we dwell at least for a moment, on one gift for which we may be thankful, a feeling of gratefulness that has the power to heal, to cleanse and to “purify our hearts to serve You in faithfulness.”


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

‫דההוא יומא מתברכאן מנה כל שיתא יומין עלאין‬
“We have been taught:All blessings from above and from below depend on the seventh day...all the six days of the week derive their blessings from the Sabbath..” 53

Perhaps the incomparable words of our rebbe, Abraham Joshua Heschel, explains this text best: “On the Sabbath it is given us to share in the holiness that is the heart of time. Even when the soul is seared, even when no prayer can come out of our tightened throats, the clean, silent rest of the Sabbath leads us to a realm of endless peace, or to the beginning of an awareness of what eternity means....Eternity utters a day.” 54

That day is the



The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness

Endnotes (continued)
45. HESCHEL, The Sabbath, p.83 46. Sabbath-Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Bantam Books, 1999 47. Siddur Otzar Hatfilah, commentary of “Iyun Tefilah, “ vol.1,1915, NY, p.384.referring to the “rest of love and generosity” the author points out that “this rest is not designed to renew our physical strength which is needed after physical work and effort, but rest for its own sake i.e. rest or tranquility that is saturated with the love of God and the kindness of a pure heart. (My trans.) 48. MULLER, Sabbath, p.135 49. Ecclesiastes Rabbah, chpt.4,5. 50. RUMI, Jellalludin, The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks.HarperCollins Press, 1997 51. The Sabbath, p.53 52. Jer. Tal. Shabbat 15a 53. HESCHEL,The Sabbath, p.14. 54. Zohar, parshat Yitro, p.88a 55. HESCHEL,The Sabbath,p.101


The Sabbath-A Day of Gratefulness


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