Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat / 11 Tevet  5775

Sophie Black shares how the study of sacred text shaped her life.


I cannot discuss Shabbat without references to Torah, and therefore I need to mention how Torah entered my life, and how the study of this sacred text has shaped my life.  I did not grow up in an observant home.  However, there was never any question about our family being Jews and doing things Jews do.  While they did not celebrate holidays in a traditional manner, I knew when it was Yom Kippur, Pesach, Chanukah, as well as other holidays, and we knew what the holidays meant, as well as their place in Jewish history and tradition.  There was just a casualness about making them part of our lives, and that's the way it was.


I was sorry about that. At the same time I did not run my parents' home, and that was their preference.  However, when Sidney and I were preparing our wedding, he asked me how I felt about having a more traditional home with Shabbat observance, attention to dietary laws, and other Jewish customs, and I was very happy to go along with his wishes.


While I had not done much study of Torah on my own, I believed that its message is for all mankind.  Philo`s concept of the relationship of Torah to nature and to man was stoic.  He taught that the world is in harmony with Torah, and Torah is in harmony with the world, and those who take to heart the teachings of the world constitute loyal citizens. 


Many scholars held that Israel was created to fulfill the Torah, and that there would be no Torah were there no Israel.  There is no unification of thought regarding who wrote the Torah.  Maimonides insisted that it was an exclusively political law.  He denied its divine nature by making it an object of critical investigation and concluded that it was written by various authors living at different times.  While he never gave up his conclusion that the document is an example of political law, he insisted that it also has a divine nature, which led him to the conclusion that Israel is a product of the Torah.   


During the nineteenth century the science of Judaism arose.  The increasing intellectualization of Torah was opposed by many scholars and thinkers, and during the past two centuries there has been much emphasis on its moral nature.  The message was that all persons could be holy, if they performed moral actions.  Torah began to be defined as instruction rather than law.  


With the advent of secular Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel, claims made that the Torah was not revealed by God in the traditional sense but is the product of the national life of ancient Israel have now found favor.  The document is now divided into 54 sections for weekly readings, and the emphasis on the contents are now traditional, instructional, and historical.  Most of the commentaries were from the creators of the text, but it is entirely possible that some texts cannot be traced to their creators. 


On a personal level I am fascinated by Torah subject matters.  Taking all the remarks of scholars, traditional folk wisdom, and historical sources of the content, one could summarize its teachings as a philosophy of living a Jewish life, and this is where Shabbat enters the commentary.  As I mentioned earlier my background was not traditional.  My parents were not observant, and while they respected those who were, it was not part of life at home. 


We started our married life entering into activities at our synagogue, Beth Emet.  As we got more and more involved in the synagogue, our attendance at the various functions available became more pronounced.  Shabbat services on Saturday morning began with the minyan, and when that service began to decline, we joined Kahal.  That was very good for me in stabilizing my Jewish involvement.  We began to do specific things in our house, such as candle lighting on Shabbat, no forbidden foods, celebrations of holydays, not doing things on Shabbat that do not fit the Shabbat mold, spending time in study, and raising a Jewish family.  Living this kind of life with a constant awareness of my Jewish duties and responsibilities has been good for me, and I know that it was for Sidney.


Sophie K. Black



SOPHIE BLACK has been a member for more than fifty years and served as the first female president of Beth Emet from 1983 to 1985.  She is the mother of Nina and Joe, safta of Ari, Mira, Tani, Molly,Lani, and Ethan, and safta raba of Hodiyah and Sidney.

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, January 2
6:30 p.m. (5:45 p.m. reception)
Kabbalat Shabbat
Saturday, January 3
9:30 a.m.
Kahal Worship in the Weiner Room with Torah Reader xxx and Torah Discussion Leaders Marilyn Price and Sophie Black

9:30 a.m. 
Minyan in Room 208
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