Shabbat Shalom
Vayeilech-Shuvah| 6 Tishrei 5776
Deuteronomy 31:1-30 | Hosea 14:2-10 
This Shabbat, Rabbi Peter Knobel Shares 
A Shabbat Conundrum

It seems as if so much of what we do, how we observe, who we are as a people is tied to time. After creation, there was rest. After all the doing, there is Shabbat. From there, there are markers set throughout the year - from Rosh Chodesh (the new month) to Rosh HaShanah (the new year), and everything in between - all tied by time and the seasons, to planting and growing and reaping, to beginnings and ends.

For the past year, it has been my honor to have been chosen to curate our Shabbat writing project. Each week, a member of our beloved community wrote a short essay about Shabbat. Each week, we got to see the curtain drawn back, just a bit, to be able to see (and feel and taste and smell and hear) how that person entered into Shabbat.

For some, it was family. Others, food. Sometimes it was a struggle, and for many, a blessing and a joy, to slip into the stream that twisted time and space into a holy sanctuary. It was challah and wine and music and prayer.

It was. It is.

It is different for each one of us, yet the same - it is a moment, distinct from all the other moments that pull us and drive us and move us swiftly through the days to a place that is not all of those things. There are an infinite number of roads of infinite variety and shape, and each of us finds a path that takes us to this place, to Shabbat.

It is rest. It is holy. It is delight.

Thank you for sharing your stories, your selves, your hearts with us this past year. 

Shabbat shalom.

Stacey Zisook Robinson
Shabbat is a wondrous gift from the Jewish people to the world. For a non halakhic Jew like myself it can be a conundrum. My earliest memories of Shabbat are of my mother and grandmother lighting Shabbat candles on Friday night and of my grandmother's challah made into French toast on Shabbat morning. In my teen years, my youth group friends and I attended Shabbat services to set an example as leaders of our youth group and after services we went out for ice cream. In college there was required chapel. For four years I traveled from Clinton, New York to Utica, New York to attend services; first getting a ride from a local family, and then in my senior year I had a car and drove myself.

At the Hebrew Union College, Shabbat was a mixture of attending services at the chapel and conducting services at my student pulpit. When I was not away at my pulpit, Friday night was spent at home with candles, Kiddush and a great meal. When we had our children, Elaine and I consistently had Shabbat dinner at home with candles, Kiddush and challah. The boys were required to attend Shabbat dinner which sometimes took place in the late afternoon as we tried to observe Shabbat and allow them to participate in swimming, wrestling, and water polo. They were required to come to synagogue at least once a month. 

As the author/editor of Shaarei Moeid Gates of the Seasons- A Guide to the Jewish Year, I struggled with what was permitted and prohibited on Shabbat. As a Reform Jew I focused in on the three key values connected to Shabbat; kedusha (holiness), menucha (rest), and oneg (delight). I tried to determine for myself whether an activity met these three criteria. For example, cutting the lawn for me is drudgery and prohibited on Shabbat but going to an art fair on Shabbat afternoon and perhaps purchasing something to enhance our home was permitted. Over the years I have often failed to live up to standards which I believe create a meaningful Shabbat. However, I always begin with mitzvah of shemirat Shabbat, observing Shabbat. Since I am aware that it is Shabbat, even when I do something that I believe may not be totally appropriate, the day remains different from the rest of the week. I take the prohibition of working on Shabbat seriously. It means not to engage in my profession. For me, when I was a student I did not do homework. As a Rabbi I would not write sermons or prepare for classes on Shabbat. The great question is, "but, isn't conducting worship part of your job?" Yes, but it is also a mitzvah to pray and study on Shabbat. 

I love Shabbat worship but I also love experiencing Shabbat at home. This is a consistent dilemma. Community is wonderful and contributes powerfully to my spiritual well-being but the intimate sharing of Shabbat with Elaine, and when possible, with other members of my family, is also uplifting. Now that I am retired, going to Shabbat dinner with friends after services has become a wonderful new way of observing Shabbat. 

Shabbat is a gift when it allows me to step back and appreciate the blessing of life and reflect on the deeper meaning of my own existence. Being an observant Reform Jew is a challenge and a privilege. In retirement my Shabbat observance continues to evolve. I always try to use the three primary values kedusha, menucha, and oneg to determine was is shabbasdic and what is not.

RABBI PETER KNOBEL, has been one of Beth Emet's spiritual leaders since 1980 and is Beth Emet's Rabbi Emeritus. Rabbi Knobel serves in leadership roles in the Reform movement on a national level, is past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbi's, and is a member of ARZA's national board. He has taught extensively at a number of institutions including Yale University, Connecticut College, and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. 
This Shabbat at Beth Emet

Friday, September 18
6:30 p.m. (5:45 p.m. reception) Kabbalat Shabbat in the Sanctuary. D'var Torah Rabbi Andrea London.

Saturday, September 19
9:00 a.m.  Tot Shabbat and Kiddush in the Sanctuary
9:30 a.m. Congregational Shabbat Shuvah in the Sanctuary with Torah Reader Danny London and Torah Discussion Leader Marci Dickman 
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