One of Judaism’s greatest contributions to civilization is Shabbat. Shabbat literally means “day of rest” but Shabbat is really much more than that. Shabbat is also a day of holiness, Torah and celebration. Shabbat is more than the cessation from work. Ultimately, it is the basis of modern labor law and much of what has become environmentalism. It is also a time to look up at the sky and contemplate the grandeur of the universe, an opportunity to reset our live and the possibility of true community.
Shabbat begins and ends with the lighting of candles. The flames of Shabbat represent the potential for the divine in everything. Shabbat is punctuated with eating and rest. It is a time to bring family and friends together to enjoy special food. It is also includes a mandated time to take an afternoon nap. One acronym suggests the letters of Shabbat mean “Shayna b’Shabbat taanug” which means, “sleeping on the Sabbath is a delight,” “taanug” coming from the same root as Oneg as in Oneg Shabbat, delighting in the Sabbath. But most of all Shabbat is a time to celebrate creation, life and Creator, to be joyous and grateful.
A century ago, the great modern Hebrew writer, Ahad Ha-Am wrote, “more than Israel (the Jewish people) has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel.” Shabbat is the spiritual, temporal home of the Jewish people and our tradition of Torah. Even the least observant among us respect the idea that neither weddings nor funerals take place on Shabbat. The former, because Shabbat needs to be celebrated for itself; the latter because we must try to keep Shabbat joyous. Shabbat, it seems, defines Jewish time and identity.
Shabbat is also the home of our Bar and Bat Mitzvah services. The sanctity of Shabbat adds to the sanctity of a student being called to the Torah and reading the ancient text to their family and friends for the first time. Shabbat, Ahad Ha-Am, literally keeps the Jewish people Jewish.
This Shabbat is a very special day. Aria Levy, the daughter of our beloved Cantor, Amy E. Levy, and Ross M. Levy will be called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah. It promises to be a very special occasion. The Levy’s play a central role in defining our collective spirit as a community. They literally give voice to our collective soul, they make our tradition sing, they lift our spirits, and they bring us joy, the joy of Judaism and the joy of Shabbat.
Aria has been fully devoted to preparing for this day for months. She has done Mitzvah projects and has gracefully agreed to have her whole family participate in her Simcha. Especially for a teen, this is remarkably inclusive. COVID has not deterred her or family. Every prayer has been mastered. Her Torah and Haftarah are complete.
I am not from the “House of Levy” but I feel as if they are my family. Liz and I are the only two people in the world who knew both Amy and Ross before they knew one another. We have celebrated their wedding with their families, welcomed Aria and Kira and celebrated endless Shabbats and holidays together. But this is their Shabbat, Aria’s Shabbat, her milestone, their milestone, our collective milestone.
Every week we celebrate Shabbat at KI. This week our celebration will be deeper and more inclusive than ever. We will celebrate a family, a child coming of age and our sacred tradition and we will do so together. In Yiddish, they call it “naches,” the joy of family. Join us, celebrate with us, pray with us, sing with and affirm everything our synagogue hopes to stand for on our sacred day of rest. To Aria, to the Levy’s, to KI, to the Jewish people: Mazal Tov!
(Join the Levy Family by Streaming Here!)
Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D.