“Yehiyeh lachem shabbaton”
Rabbi Avi Taff
Clergy Corner, May 22, 2019
Last Shabbat in Parashat Emor we read about the command to create a shabbaton (a day of complete rest, a sacred occasion) and that is exactly what we did. 26 families from our day school community descended upon Camp Ramah for our 5th annual Youdai Family Camp. Children and families celebrating Shabbat, singing and dancing, appreciating nature, overcoming fears, bonding as a community, putting away all that distracts us (yes, that means our cell phones and other screens!) from what is most important and just being present; giving us the opportunity to experience and think about how we create sacred time. Shabbat is a precious gift; a blueprint for connection to that which is most important and recognition of life’s greatest blessings.
During kiddush Shabbat morning we sing, “v’shamru,” the people of Israel shall keep shabbat…”for in six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God ceased from work and was refreshed (vayinafash). The word vayinafash is derived from the Hebrew word Nefesh meaning soul. Shabbat offers us an opportunity to refresh our souls or as Rashi (11th century, Spain) explains in his commentary, “God restored God’s own soul by taking a calming break from the burden of the labor.”
At the retreat on Shabbat afternoon, as my daughter Eliana reached the top of the climbing tower on the ropes course she immediately wanted to come down! As she sat overlooking the hills surrounding Camp Ramah I asked her to shout out her line from her first grade siddur ceremony that she participated in recently. “We praise God who is the ruler of our world, who creates light and darkness who planned and forms things, we are grateful to God for this beautiful world.” Eliana worked so hard to get to the top of the tower but I wanted to be able to take a calming break, to appreciate what she had just accomplished, to be present, to feel a sense of gratitude for God’s creations and to enjoy the view!
We learn from God about the importance of creativity and hard work and in addition, God teaches us to stop, breath and appreciate. Observing shabbat has infinite potential to be meaningful and special but celebrating shabbat with community can bring us to even greater heights.