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Shabbat and Danger

February 26, 2016

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, February 26, 2016.

Shabbat and Danger

In James Michener’s monumental novel, The Source, a long segment describes the terrifying days of the Spanish Inquisition:

On a cold, wintry morning in 1540 the citizens of Avaro in central Spain found on their doorsteps a printed broadsheet commanding them to report to the Holy Inquisition anyone who had publicly accepted baptism as a Christian and had then secretly continued to practice as a Jew. To aid informers in spying out this crime, a series of ingenious tests was provided:

      • Put before your neighbor morsels of food such as pork, rabbit and congers eels, and if he refuse to eat, he is a Jew.
      • Watch with great care everything your neighbor does on Friday. Does he put on fresh linen? Does he light candles at least an hour before honest me do? Does his wife clean the house that day? If you catch him doing these things, you have a Jew.
      • Go to your roof on Friday two hours before sundown and watch all the chimneys of the city. Any that stops smoking suddenly as the sun sets betrays a Jew. Run and catch his name. .  . .

At times in history, Jews clinging to their observance of the Sabbath often put themselves in very real danger. In a Christian world which observed Shabbat on a different day of the week, and in a very different way, Jews who observed this central Jewish ritual were in danger indeed.

Today, however, most of us don’t live in fear that Shabbat observance will be our downfall. In fact – it is the fact that we don’t live in that fear that has for many of us weakened our commitment to the Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom.