• Meyer Grunberg

What Does it Mean to "Keep Shabbat" ?

Earlier this week, I posted a series of polls on my Instagram story (@jewishistoryguy) where I asked my followers questions about their individual approach to Shabbat:


Do you keep Shabbat?

If yes have you always kept it?

If no, do you envision yourself keeping it one day?

What does “keeping Shabbat” mean more to you?

Being with family / Abstaining from work

What does “keeping Shabbat” mean more to you?

Turning off my phone / Lighting candles

Do you light candles even if you don’t keep Shabbat?


Most were quick to say “I don’t keep Shabbat” - but those same ones were also quick to attribute “keeping” with either turning off their phone, or being with family, lighting candles, or abstaining from work.


This was both beautiful and telling.


Judaism is perhaps the most nuanced human development in the world for this very reason.


Take our Shabbat example.


It's central to our faith, customs, history and traditions. It comes every week and when you begin to fully understand its significance and beauty, Shabbat becomes a central and guiding point in our lives. If you live in Israel, Shabbat is the designated “off” day from work, and very hard to ignore - most businesses (observant or not) close on this day.


Yet, we grow up with misconceptions and forced “religious” rituals that turn us off when we hear the words: “Do you keep Shabbat?”


But to an extent, even those of us that fail to “keep” it in the Halachic sense, still succeed in keeping it in a personal sense - dare I say, cosmic sense.


Shabbat goes beyond us. Shabbat was here before us. Shabbat will be here after us.

We, as the Jewish People, were given Shabbat by God as an inheritance to “keep” (Shamor) and “remember” (Zachor) - as R’ Joshua Heschel so eloquently phrased, Shabbat is a Palace in Time.


And we, as the “tenants” of said “palace”, have a weekly opportunity to step inside. Once inside, we’re given say, two keys. One key says “keep” and the other “remember”, perhaps some weeks you don't even go inside, but you’re still only given one of the two keys - for most of us, that key is usually the one labeled, “remember”.


The more often you find yourself at said "palace" on those beautiful Friday afternoons, when the sun is setting and the awe is descending, the more you begin to realize that in fact, you’ve been given the same key this entire time. And on that key it says both, “Keep It and Remember It”.


We grow up with misconceptions that tell us that just because we fail to connect with Shabbat on a ritual-based, religious level, we’ve failed to keep Shabbat altogether.

Shabbat was here before, Shabbat will be here after.


On Shabbat, by doing one simple thing that brings you closer to God, the universe, yourself, your family, your community - by doing one simple thing that gives you a moment of pause, tranquility, understanding, Oneness - You. Are. Keeping. Shabbat.


Why?


Because it's evidently easier for more of us to “Remember” Shabbat and by doing whatever it is that you do to "Remember", you’ve already begun to "Keep" it.


Because by Remembering, you’re Keeping it close to you. And when we speak of something that transcends time and space, something that was here before and will be here after - this is as close as we can hope to come to Eternity.


You’ve said to the world, to yourself, that you are grateful for this moment in time.

This moment that was here before and this moment that will be here after. This moment of Separation, that by separating, you’re Uniting.

And the closer we come to that unification, the easier the other rituals and traditions associated with this day will become - one Shabbat at a time.


Shabbat Shalom & Much Love,


jewishistoryguy




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