Once, I was hit with some pretty incredible wisdom while scrolling through Instagram: “Being busy is not a personality trait.” And yet busyness pervades the lives of my friends and me. I’m in graduate school, where the favorite topic of discussion for most of us is how busy we all are. With internships, cross-registered courses, language requirements and midterm papers, everyone has a full plate.
So, who has time for Shabbat? When Friday night rolls in as the sun sets and Shabbat approaches, it’s ever common to hear: “A day of rest? I’m just too busy.”
In my work as the network weaver and relational coordinator for the Riverway Project at Temple Israel of Boston, I find myself thinking constantly about what it means to live a meaningful Jewish life as a 20/30-something.
One of the major facets of the Riverway Project is Riverway Shabbat, formerly known as Soul Food Friday, a monthly gathering at Temple Israel where, over the course of the year, hundreds of young folks gather for a music-filled Shabbat service and dinner.
Shabbat is an important piece of the social and spiritual fabric of Riverway, as it is for many Jews. But as my yoga teacher tells us, why is the hardest part getting through the door?
Someone once asked me how to understand the difference between Shabbat and Friday night/Saturday day. The answer, they shared with me, was intention. Friday night passes whether or not we blink an eye in its direction, but when we remember (zakhor) Shabbat, whatever that means to us, we transform it to be a holy day.
I’m all for a day spent in bed with Netflix (I’m on a Korean drama binge right now), but I think this work of intention-building needs to be done in community.
I believe the treasure trove of Jewish wisdom offers a potential solution to this problem: Shabbat. Regardless of your level of observance, Shabbat offers the opportunity to turn our attention away from our individual lives to a communal experience, from loneliness to togetherness.
In a recent article for eJewish Philanthropy, Leah Robbins writes that the secret to the recipe behind what millennials are looking for in Jewish community is “neither novel nor revolutionary—it’s basic human intimacy.”
I am so excited the Riverway Project is launching a new opportunity to explore the power of Shabbat: Shabbat Squad. It’s a lot like our #SederSquad2019 pilot from last year that offered training and learning for 12 leaders to host seders in their homes that ended up reaching 150 people. Similarly, Shabbat Squad works like this: A select cohort of individuals will apply and commit to gather for two or three sessions of studying Shabbat rituals, developing creative hosting skills and cultivating meaningful conversations. Additionally, we are hosting a challah baking and braiding workshop. Together with the support of OneTable, folks will be given generous stipends to host their own Shabbat dinners.
Shabbat Squad-ers will also receive their own Shabbat ritual toolbox to keep for all of the many Shabbatot in their lives. (Plus, you’ll get to meet a whole bunch of awesome folks in the Shabbat Squad!)
Oftentimes, we underestimate just how much of an impact our actions have on others. There have been many weeks when the promise of a Shabbat dinner with friends—old and new—helped me survive a particularly difficult week. It is our ultimate goal that through Shabbat Squad, we will be able to open our homes to friends and community members we have yet to meet for an evening filled with intention, love and delicious food.
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