Shabbat Welcome, Holon, Israel, 2012
Shabbat Welcome, Holon, Israel, 2012Click to Enlarge
Israeli society is made up of Jewish communities from a variety of backgrounds as well as differing levels of participation in the rituals of Jewish life. It is possible to take the culture and language for granted and neglect the spiritual and religious dimensions of being Jewish in a Jewish state. At a community center in the town of Holon, near Tel Aviv, young people gather together to welcome Shabbat into their week. Most of these teens are not observant and don’t light candles at home. Here they are shown sanctifying Shabbat and reading the blessings together. Across Israel’s many matnasim (Jewish community centers), programs exist to get less religious youth involved with the rituals and traditions of Judaism, although here the program is being attended almost exclusively by girls. The liturgical history of Kabbalat Shabbat, literally “receiving the Sabbath” originates from a tradition of a group of 16th century mystics living in Tzfat, a mountain city near the sea of Galilee, but has since become part of popular practice worldwide. Lekhah Dodi and other Psalms are chanted to welcome Shabbat like a bride. Shabbat is not just a day when labor stops – it is a time of physical and spiritual pleasures that is meant to remind us of the purposefulness of the world and our place in it.
What customs do you keep for observing Shabbat? How are they the same or different from your peers? What do you think about the statement, “it is possible to neglect the spiritual and religious dimensions of being Jewish in a Jewish state?” If so, how does this compare with observing Shabbat and keeping other Jewish customs in the U.S.A.?