Shabbat in Jerusalem II As Told By Jody

August 23, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, August 23, 2013.

Shabbat in Jerusalem II

According to strict Halachah (Jewish Law) musical instruments are forbidden on the Sabbath, even though in the days of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem musical instruments were a commonplace (see Psalm 150). In some of the Jewish Communities in Europe, however, Jews found seeming partial loopholes in the Halachah. The Kabbalat Shabbat was one of those loopholes. This series of religious poems and songs is actually recited BEFORE the sun sets – therefore it’s not really recited on the actual Sabbath. This ceremony ends with “Lecha Dodi” – the song welcoming the Sabbath bride... when the Lecha Dodi ends, worshipers begin immediately with the Sabbath Evening service. And here’s the loophole: since the Kabbalat Shabbat Ceremony isn’t really part of Shabbat, 17th and 18th Century congregations, notable The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam would have grand settings of the songs accompanied by musical instruments. Once the Sabbath began, however, the instruments would be put away, and the evening prayers would beging a cappella.

In today’s Jerusalem, one of the most amazing Shabbat occurrences is a Kabbalat Shabbat celebration every Summer Friday afternoon just before the sunset, reproducing this ancient European Jewish custom. Jerusalem’s old 19th Century train station has been transformed into a place of markets and restaurants and nightlife, and it is there that this festival happens in its outdoor plaza. Musical instruments, Israeli songs, and the traditional Kabbalat Songs are performed, and hundreds of people arrive to sing along. It is a true celebration for the Shabbat. People dressed up on their way to the synagogue, people in tank tops and shorts, religious people with kippot and women’s head covering, secular people bare headed, children, families, old and young – an assortment of people that reflects the diversity of Israeli life. Some go to services later in their synagogues, many go home to Shabbat Dinners, and many might even go out to dinner in spite of it being Shabbat. Shabbat is certainly the treasure of the Jewish people, and here is such a communal collaboration of people celebrating the Shabbat. It is truly a Shabbat Shalom, a Sabbath of Peace.

The train tracks to Jerusalem’s ancient train station have been converted to a boardwalk and a bike path!

Hundreds of people religious and secular alike, welcoming the Sabbath in Jerusalem’s ancient train station.

Our former Shlichah (emissary), with her family and her parents. Totally coincidentally I ran into them at the Kabbalat Shabbat.



Shabbat Shalom

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