Friday, October 24, 2008

And the Task Force is off...

I really need to get in the swing of things with blogging - I keep waiting to have enough time to write a good entry, but I never seem to have the time I need! I think that the trick is to just do it - no more excuses!

Anyway, our Task Force had our first Shabbat together last week, and it was (to me, and to others I heard from) a great start. Services were lovely, and the learning/discussion afterwards was top-notch.

As a Rabbi, I've studied Shabbat more than a little, and I'm pretty familiar with the "core" texts about Shabbat, especially the ones which come from the Torah. But, this time, we tried to look at those texts in-and-of-themselves - without seeing them through the lens of 2000 years of Rabbinic interpretation. It was a mini-revelation, to be honest.

The Shabbat that our ancestors lived was very different from ours - the Torah focusses almost exclusively on the "thou shall nots" of Shabbat, and talks very little, if at all, about what to do. Nothing about prayer, nothing about spirituality, nothing about reflection, or time for ourselves. Just restrictions on our actions.

I wonder what it was like in practice. Did our ancestors see Shabbat as a restrictive, even unpleasant day? One which they had to observe, but didn't like to? Or, was it more peaceful and pastoral? Did they like the chance to sit in or near their homes, doing nothing of substance, or did they find it boring?

Maybe more importantly, how would we feel about that? Would we like an occasional day (as often as once a week?) when we are to do nothing but just be? Hang out, relax, chat, eat a bit. No TV, no phones, no work, no travel. I have to admit - with two young kids, that kind of day sounds like heaven to me. Although, I'm not 100% sure I could handle it weekly, just like that. How does it sound to you?


Milt said...

I thought that the 1st session went well (other than some unanticipated interruptions). I found the whole days experience to be rather uplifting and the format: service-meal-discussion seemed to work well. While it went a bit longer than perhaps we anticipated it did not SEEM long. That's a good thing right there. Looking forward to the next one.

Matt said...

I agree that the first session was a success. The group discussion and overall meeting really helped set the mood of Shabbat.

Personally, hanging out, chatting, and relaxing sounds very appealing, but also at odds with busy life. The biggest thing I would have to get over is the feeling of wasting time. The concept of wasting time when not being productive is so entrenched in many of us. If we could overcome that, I really think we could wake the day after Shabbat feeling refreshed.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg said...

Matt - check out "Shabbat as Protest" by Gunther Plaut, in the "Shabbat Reader." Rabbi Plaut talks about the difference between "wasting time" and purposefully being non-productive. It's kind of a classic article in the Reform Movement, so we'll probably see it pop up elsewhere as we study!