The Secular Shabbat

August 22, 2014

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, August 22, 2014.

The Secular Shabbat

Even though the majority of Israeli Jews are not religious, the Shabbat has remained a part of even secular Israeli life. The rhythms of Israel, including the calendar and the week, operate entirely on Jewish principals. The day off is Saturday, which is, after all the Jewish Sabbath. All offices, and even most shops and restaurants are closed, especially in Jerusalem. For decades, there was no such thing as a real weekend in Israel. Yes... Saturday night was still a night for going out to restaurants, movies, entertainment, even going downtown and taking a walk on the city streets. But, people went back to work on SUNDAY morning, sometimes staggering in to work after being up late the night before! Today, Israel has a real weekend. Most offices are closed on Fridays, making Friday morning (like our Sunday morning) a day for brunches! And for Israeli people today, the weekend begins THURSDAY night (with many late night entertainments and celebrations), continuing through Saturday night. Friday night and Saturday during the day remain a time for family dinners and family activities.

Even on the secular Kibbutz [the Zionist communal settlement] – that idealized secular society – Friday night and Saturday remain the day of rest. The Friday night dinner is a part of even the secular Kibbutz routine. Muki Tsur, kibbutznick and historian of Zionism once remarked that mysteriously, eating cake rather than bread seemed to be a wide-spread kibbutz tradition on Shabbat mornings. In fact it was so common, that the kibbutz cooks would hide the cakes after they were made so no one would sneak into the kitchen and snack on them before they were served for breakfast. Little did Muki know that this tradition of cake for breakfast on Shabbat was actually a religious tradition: Since there are 3 official “meals” within the religious framework on Shabbat, those three meals have been Friday dinner, Saturday lunch, and a “third meal” late Saturday afternoon. Since a meal is officially defined as one that includes bread, the religious tradition dictates that no bread be eaten before the morning prayers. Therefore, religious Jews ate a breadless meal of cake in the morning, thereby preserving the 3-meal tradition! This tradition translated to cake at breakfast even on the secular kibbutz.

Shabbat Shalom