Shabbat, the Hebrew word for the Jewish Sabbath, is celebrated every week from sundown on Friday to nightfall of Saturday. Many of us as Christian are familiar with this term. But how many of us really get to experience it. Today I did. Oh how wonderful it was.
In Hebrew, Shabbat means “resting.” Following the special Friday night Shabbat evening prayers the Jewish faithful partake of a festive meal which is opened by the Kiddush blessing over a cup of wine or grape juice, and the Hamotzie blessing over two whole loaves of bread called Challah. Do any of these realities help you appreciate the Jewish-Christian beginnings that comes out in our Christian Catholic Spirituality…it did for me, experiencing it today for the first time was such an awesome experience.
The book of Deuteronomy was the focus of the Torah studies for an hour this morning. This was followed by The Sabbath Worship on this Shabbat morning ….it’s prayer time again…just like in monasteries around the world and even my own Norbertine Abbey—this Jewish service also featured the weekly public Torah reading. No different from any Sunday School Service I ever attended…it was great.
All throughout the Jewish Worship Service I could not but help to see the connections … the yamaka for the Jewish male and the skull cap for the Christian consecrated male; the prayer shawl for the Jewish Rabbi and the choir cape for the Christian Religious/Priest; the Jewish Cantor sang in Hebrew and the Christian Cantor often sings in Latin; the reading of a portion in the Torah is the first half of the liturgy and the readings from the Bible is the first half of the Catholic liturgy as well; both share in a meal in the second half of their time of worship and fellowship together. Shabbat ended today after nightfall, as it always does and it was marked with the brief Havdalah, (separation) service which marks the departure of the holy day of rest.
And you thought the life of a monastic was sheltered…stay tuned. I cannot wait to share my experience in my Wednesday morning class on Judaism with my peers.
A. Gerard Jordan, O. Praem.