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Cameron Colligan

Religious Service Paper #2


HUMA-2300-004-F14
Tuesday 7-9:50 PM
Due Oct.21 2014

The Sabbath Day in Judaism

God created the earth in six days. He created the mountains, rivers, deserts,
trees, oceans, and all things that live on the earth. After all was created, God rested. In
the Bible it reads on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and
he rested on the seventh day from all his work.. It continues ..God blessed the seventh
day, and sanctified it.. (Gen 2: 1-3, King James Bible) He rested from his labors and
like God, so should we according to those of the Jewish faith. They call this seventh day
the Sabbath, also known as Shabbat. I was curious to know just how do Jewish people,
mostly reformed Jews, rest on the sabbath day. I was able to interview my friend Brian
who is a practicing Jew and I was also able to attend a Saturday service at the Temple
Bat Yahm in Newport Beach, California. The following is what I learned in my interview
with Brian and the service that I attended.
To the reformed Jew, the Shabbat or Sabbath is considered a holiday that occurs
once every week. Shabbat is essential to Jewish life and has played a great deal of
importance throughout their history. The Jewish writer Adad Ha-Am once said More
than the Jewish people have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jewish
people. (reformjudaism.org). This quote illustrates perfectly that Jewish people have
relied on the Sabbath day to strengthen and sustain them throughout history.

In the ten commandments it states Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work it continues ..the seventh day is the
sabbath..in it thou shalt not do any work.. (Exodus20: 8-10). God commands the Jews
that for a whole week they are to go about their own business but on the seventh, which
is Saturday, they are not to work at all. This includes anything that contains labor and
that takes the mind of the Jew off of worshipping God. The Sabbath is not just Saturday
but rather begins the Friday before. According to the Jewish calendar the Sabbath
begins on friday when the sun goes down, and ends on Saturday night when the sun
goes down. This completing a full 24 hours.
I spent the Thanksgiving weekend in California enjoying the beautiful weather
and the California waves. The last thing on my to do list was to attend a Jewish church
service on a Saturday morning of my wonderful vacation. Despite my lack of interest, it
turned out to be an incredibly eye opening experience for me. The Shabbat morning
service began at 10:30 am. The weather was beautiful and luckily I had my older
brother to keep me company. The temple was located in a wealthy neighborhood just 5
minutes from the beach. As we walked in we were greeted by some gentlemen who
gave us a program and kippas which are the hats that Jewish people wear on their
heads. We were given these for prayer purposes and as a sign of respect towards God.
We were then lead into the chapel area which was beautiful. At the Temple Bat Yahm
the chapel has a circular design and has glass windows all around. Natural light flooded
in and provided for a wonderful atmosphere for the events to follow.
It was evident that we were the only visitors to the synagogue as many people
approached us to converse. They asked us about our vacation and how we were

enjoying the beautiful California weather. My brother and I had not dressed very well for
the occasion. I had on a pair of jeans and a button up shirt, as well as my brother. The
Temple Bat Yahm was located in a wealthy part of Newport Beach so most people in
attendance had on nice clothing such as business attire. There were also some men
that wore during the services prayer shawls that they would put over their shoulders.
The shawls were white with blue stripes and had low hanging beads. We were not
required to wear these.
As the service was about to begin I noticed that those in attendance all seemed
to know one another and to be good friends. This reminded me of something my friend
Brian told me the week before when I interviewed him. He told me that the sabbath is a
great way for him to come together with other Jewish people in the community. Living in
Utah has made it difficult for Brian to find others of his faith so Saturdays are great for
him to go and be with those of his same faith. Brian told me that being with those of his
congregation allows him to strengthen his faith and spirit on the Sabbath.
The service continued and it became more interesting and insightful as it went
on. The service was led by Rabbi Rayna Gevurtz. We were instructed to open our
prayer books which were in little holders on the pews in front of us. The Rabbi then lead
us in prayers, my brother and I just followed along with the english commentary. I
remembered from class that really only reformed Jewish synagogues will have books
with english in them as well as compared to Orthodox Judaism which does not. During
research I learned that on the Sabbath, Jews maintain the belief that God rests on the
Sabbath. For this reason any prayer on the Sabbath or during the Shabbat service, no
prayers will be focused on requests but rather focused on giving thanks. This was

obvious at the Temple Bat Yahm, as all of the prayers that I heard were giving thanks to
God.
As I thought about the beautiful doctrine of not asking God for anything on the
Sabbath but rather giving him thanks I was reminded of another Sabbath tradition I had
studied, and that is worship in the home. Shabbat begans at the home. Friday before
the Sabbath begins it is customary to prepare the home for the Sabbath. This includes
cleaning and cooking, as you cannot cook during the Sabbath. Friday night is set aside
for a special meal where the family can all come together and give thanks to God.
On Friday night of the Sabbath the Shabbat candles will also be lit. In reformed
Judaism the candles can be lit by either man or woman. The person will usually only
light two white Shabbat candles which represent 1. Remember the Sabbath day to keep
it holy and 2. Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The practice of lighting the
Shabbat candles is not a strict practice of reformed Jewish homes. The candles will
usually be lit before the Shabbat meal.
Before the Shabbat meal the Kiddush must be preformed. The Kiddush is a
requirement to any Sabbath day. It is usually done in the household by either the man of
woman of the house (myjewishlearning.com). The Kiddush is done by drinking wine out
of a designated cup. In reformed Judaism it does not matter what cup it is done in and
grape juice may be used instead of wine. The Kiddush is done in three sections. 1. a
section from the Torah is read, (usually about the creation and the Sabbath day) 2.
Blessing over the wine and 3. blessing over Shabbat as to begin the Sabbath day
(reformjudaism.org)

My friend Brian told me that his family will always begin the Sabbath day with the
Kiddush. It is a tradition that he enjoys. After Kiddush Brian and his family will usually
have a big meal on Friday night of the Sabbath. I asked Brian if his family prepares the
food before sundown and if they light the Shabbat candles, and he said no. Brian told
me that his family does not observe the Sabbath strictly but they see it as more of a
time to come together as a family. Brian has a family where everyone is always doing
something. His father works a lot, Brian plays baseball as well as his little brother, and
his mother is always at work as well. The Friday night dinner is a time where they can
all relax from what they are doing and come together as a family and build relationships
and their faith.
After the prayers were said at the service in the Temple Bat Yahm, Rabbi
Gevurtz began his sermon. During his sermon he read from the Torah in Hebrew and in
English. He gave a lesson or thoughts on a well known biblical story of Jacob and his
brother eating the soup in exchange for his birth right. The Rabbi said that the brother of
Jacob asked for the soup because he was hungry and blinded by his desires. Jacob
was able to see into the future and be patient. Jacob gave his brother the soup in
exchange for the birthright. This lesson taught me to not always follow my desires but to
plan for the future and be patient in all things.
At the synagogue the Torah was read often, as it it in many services on a
Saturday morning. The Torah was inside what they called the alter. It was a large roll of
parchment and was dressed in beautiful cloth. While the Torah was being opened the
congregation stood. Throughout the service many people were called from the

congregation to read from it. I enjoyed this part very much as it was what I imagined a
Jewish service to be like.
The service concluded and my brother and I were left to mingle with members of
the congregation. I was able to ask several people about the Sabbath day and what it
meant to them. Like my friend Brian, most of the people I spoke with said that the
Sabbath Day was a day of personal improvement and enlightenment. Perhaps to the
Orthodox Jew the Sabbath Day must be followed strictly by many dos and donts but
for the reformed Jew it is much different. To them it is a day where they can strengthen
their relationship with God and to thank him for all of the blessings they have been
given. It is a day where they can link themselves to their community and their ancestors.
Learning and seeing how Jewish people practice the Sabbath Day has made me, as a
Christian, want to dedicate myself more to better worshipping the Sabbath in my own
way.

Works Cited

-(The Bible, King James Version)


-Fisher, Mary Pat: Ninth Edition. Living Religions (2014)
-http://www.reformjudaism.org/shabbat-customs
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ritual/Shabbat_The_Sabbath/At_Home/Kid
dush.shtml

-http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/reform_practices.html