Shabbat Shalom, KUA

An inside look at one of KUA's newest cultural education experiences

Mr. Weintraub educating the party about the Jewish tradition of Shabbat

“Shabbat,” meaning “cease” or “rest” in Hebrew, is the seventh day of the Jewish week, a day of rest mandated by god.

According to the Book of Bereishit (Genesis), God spent six days working on building the world. At the end of these six days he ceased work and declared the seventh day holy. Unlike the Christian Shabbat, usually seen as a day of restrictions, the Jewish Shabbat is a day of celebration, happily anticipated throughout the entire week. It serves as a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. This day of celebration is the only day of observation mandated in the Ten Commandments, the fourth reading “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy”.

Since the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, Mr. Weintraub has been hosting Shabbat Dinners on Friday nights. Originally initiated by freshman Izzy Gordon, these dinners serve as both a celebration for the Jewish students on campus and an opportunity to cook, talk, eat, have fun, and learn about Jewish culture.

Yan Shikhirman ’18 helping to prepare dinner

Since Shabbat is the day of rest, there are restrictions on what participants can do or complete – work is limited. According to tradition, those observing Shabbat should not perform any work needed to create, or build a sanctuary including, but not limited to building, tying, traveling, buying goods, and extinguishing a fire, or coming in contact with any tools used in these actions. This tradition stems from a story in which villagers spent the entire week working on building a sanctuary, only stopping to observe Shabbat.

Every week, observers of Jewish faith would follow the various customs and traditions of this day of rest. Around two or three in the afternoon every day, family members left work and returned home. After bathing, the family dressed in nice clothing and prepared a festive meal with nice dishes and table settings.

A successful attempt at brussel sprouts

Starting at sunset, two candles were lit, representing zachor (remember) and shamor (to preserve). The woman of the house performed blessings over these candles. The children of the household were blessed, and the man of the house recited Kiddush, a prayer over wine sanctifying the Shabbat. The prayer of bread was then performed over the challah, an eggy sweet braided bread. After the meal, grace was spoken once more and an hour or two was used to study the Torah. The next day the family attended a Shabbat service, spending the rest of the day in leisurely pursuits. The day ended after nightfall when three stars had appeared in the sky.

Challah bread being broken apart piece by piece

Nowadays, the traditions loosely follow the original structure, with Shabbat being a day of leisure, celebration, and remembrance.

During my experience, I arrived at Mr. Weintraub’s house around six. Shortly after, about ten others arrived. While I and a couple of others made dinner, everyone else sat in the living room talking, laughing, and discussing school and life. While dinner was being finished up on the stove, Izzy Gordon recited various songs and blessings over the challah and wine (in this case, grape juice). Then, as Mr. Weintraub puts it, we “both metaphorically, and literally broke bread,” with everyone sharing a loaf of the sweet bread.

Lion king reference: Izzy Gordon presents the Challah

After dinner, those who attended gained some historical knowledge of Jewish public figures through a game of twenty questions: “guess the Jewish actor or comedian.” The rest of the night was spent having fun and enjoying the company of others.

This is the first year Mr. Weintraub can remember there being a formally recognized Shabbat dinner on campus. He initiated it as a way for kids to “learn more about [Jewish traditions] and have a good time.” He wanted to open up his home as a place for not only observers of Jewish traditions and faith, but also for those who are interested in educating themselves about other cultures and their traditions.

Students hanging out in the Weintraub’s living room before dinner

If you are interested in attending the next Shabbat dinner, contact Mr. Weintraub. All are welcome, and it is a great opportunity to learn, eat, and have fun!

Check out a video of the party listening to and reciting a prayer:

Sources consulted for facts on the origins of Shabbat:

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