“Is there something that you would like to continue to experience forever?” So asked Rabbi Moshe Friedman who came to the San Diego Community of Aish HaTorah specially to participate in The Shabbat Project, a worldwide event that is annually celebrated at this time of year.
The large and diverse crowd that had gathered to welcome in Shabbat looked at the rabbi with curiosity, and he continued:
“There are many nice and pleasant things in life, but we would not want to eat chocolate non-stop forever, or ride on a roller coaster for eternity.
Shabbat is defined as me’ein olam haba (a foretaste of the World to Come). In other words, it is a taste of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) that will continue forever. Therefore, we need to try to understand what is so special about the unique pleasure of Shabbat. It seems to me that this pleasure derives from three special relationships that are eternal, that have no end, and that may be increasingly developed and enhanced to no end.
The first is the relationship between us and others. Look around you: You see the power of community, of family, of togetherness, of solidarity. Shabbat is the time of the week to strengthen these ties.
The second is the relationship between us and our innermost selves. There is no end to the depth of our souls, no end to our potential. Shabbat is the day to uncover and express the deepest elements and most creative aspects of ourselves.
The third is the relationship between ourselves and G-d. Shabbat is not only a day of rest but a day of holiness, of prayer, of the connection between us and our Creator.
So thanks to everyone who came here for Shabbat, and for a taste of eternity. Shabbat shalom.”
Rabbi Sacks’ Answer
In every community I visited in the United States over the past few days, in every school presentation or other forum, when I asked the rabbis and educators about the challenges they face, one word kept coming up: assimilation.
Last week marks two years since the passing of Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and one of the most eminent Jewish voices of our generation.
When I recalled my many meetings with him, I was reminded of a much different word: greatness. Rabbi Sacks never shouted: “Don’t assimilate!” He understood that the process of imparting a strong sense of Jewish identity starts at the very beginning, with a quality Jewish education from birth, and he devoted monumental efforts to publicizing this message.
He enlightened people about their Jewish identity with such enthusiasm and positivity that his message continues to resonate with them as they pass it along to the next generation.
He chose to inspire us with Jewish pride. He did this by regaling us with the wonderful legacy we inherited from previous generations while urging us to add to it. “When we make Judaism our top priority, we never lose. The world respects Jews who respect their Judaism,” he was accustomed to say. “I am a Jew – in order that the voice of the hundreds of previous generations will continue to be heard. I appreciate other cultures, but I am inextricably attached only to my people, to my heritage, and to my G-d.”
This is a blueprint for life in general: not only to articulate what’s wrong, but also to emphasize the positive in order to instill meaning and motivation.
In the memory of Rabbi Ya’akov Tzvi ben David Aryeh.