Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why don't more people observe Shabbat

So, we've got our Shabbat Task Force going, and I gave a sermon on Rosh Hashana about Shabbat, and tomorrow night we start one of two classes this year about Shabbat. Throw in this blog and regular mention in the Bulletin, and it's pretty clear that we're trying really hard to make Shabbat "better" here at Beth Am (I went with the quotes around "better" because what it means for Shabbat to be better is a complex question, which I'm going to ignore, for now). But, the question which hasn't been talked about a lot is: why do we need to do this? Why isn't it already happening?

I can't think of a time when I've described Shabbat (to an adult) and they didn't find it, at least in part, resonating with them. Granted, I meet a skewed poplulation, but who doesn't think that more time for trancendance, spirituality and deep, renewing rest are good things? If that's so, why aren't people flocking to synagogue for Shabbat? Why does this require a Task Force, and a blog, and...

One reason, which is certainly valid, at least in part, is that we don't do Shabbat well - that we (not just Beth Am, but synagogues in general) don't offer a Shabbat which fulfills the promise. That's what the Task Force is about, I guess - how can we make the actual Shabbat here at CBA better match our idealized Shabbat. But, another opinion entirely comes from Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a well-known, and astoundingly prolific, thinker, author and teacher. He believes that the real problem is that our society is so out of sync with the values inherent in Shabbat that we resist Shabbat. We say we want it, but when given the chance, we rebel, because it's so different from what we otherwise know in life. Check out the full article - it's not very long - and tell me what you think!

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