Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat Vayeshev/ 20 Kislev  5775
Genesis 37:1-37:36 / Amos 2:6-3:8

Lighting Up Shabbat



Such a loaded word! Is it a holiday? A Holy day? Does it happen in time or does it create space? Are we supposed to do something? Not do something? Eat something? Sing something? Pray something?  There are a thousand questions around the practice and celebration of Shabbat. Probably more. And the answer to every one of them is - maybe. Maybe, depending upon your tradition. Depending upon what you - and your family - decide is right for you. How's that for a Jewish answer?


Times have changed since the days of Sinai, when God first said "Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy." (Exodus 20:8). Some forty years later, the commandment was a little different: Deuteronomy 5:12 says we are to "Observe the Sabbath..." Remember; observe - which one? More questions. Fast forward a few millennia, and there's as much change in the practice of Shabbat as the number of years that have passed since then. Let's face it, we don't know that God and Moses were negotiating the use of an elevator up to the top of Sinai back then.


Things change. Technology, culture, ideas and understanding. One of the tenets of Reform Judaism is the idea that we each of us make a mindful decision to practice those rituals and obligations that make sense to us in our continuing conversation with God in the modern world.


Part of what this writing project is all about is to share with one another our own practices surrounding Shabbat. How do we connect, not only to Shabbat, but with our families, our community, the sacred and the Divine?


You may not have any traditions, and that's ok.  Perhaps, in reading these weekly reflections, you will find one or two that look interesting or sound appealing (or taste delicious!). Several of the people who have written essays have commented on the ritual or lighting the candles as a way to welcome in Shabbat. It is a wonderful tradition, and is a great way to separate the regular work-a-day week from the holiness of Shabbat.


Perhaps this week, as the sun begins to flirt with the horizon and the sky smudges from gray to black, consider taking a moment to welcome in the Bride, and light your own candles. As you do, reflect on the week you've just experienced; gather it all in - all its motion and activity and doing. Breathe it in, and then, as you exhale, let it go, and make space for the promise of rest and peace. When you're ready to step into that place of Shabbat, go ahead and light the candles with this blessing:



Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.


The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has both text and audio of this prayer here:


And if these words don't seem to sing for you, go ahead and create your own prayer that celebrates Shabbat and the lighting of the candles. That's a great ritual as well - the prayer of your heart.


One last thing, before wrapping up this essay: Shabbat means many things to many people. In addition to these essays, we'd love to start collecting images and pictures from you! We will build a multimedia archive, so that we can fully experience the joy of Shabbat with all of you! Please feel free to send digital images to Maybe you can take a family picture around your Shabbat candles.


Shabbat shalom!

Each Friday during 5775, we will be featuring writings from you, our congregants, sharing reflections on Shabbat. We hope you will be inspired to share your reflections with the community. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Stacey Zisook Robinson
This Shabbat at Beth Emet

Friday, December 12
8:00 p.m. 
Kabbalat Shabbat Services with Torah reading in Meturgaman-style by Laura Miller. This year our Meturgaman readers will give their perspective using their life work as a touch stone on the parsha. Laura Miller gives her perspective of parsha Vayeshev with The Power of Rank and the Misuse of its Power: Reinterpreting the Joseph Story in Contemporary Times and Settings.

Special blessings: Arlene Berke in honor of her birthday and Ira Berke travel blessing for a safe trip on Birthright Israel.   

Saturday, December 13
9:30 a.m.
Kahal Bat Mitzvah Talia Alpert in the Sanctuary. 

9:30 a.m. 
Minyan in Room 208
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